Facebook to Have Users Grade News Sources to Decide Which Are ‘Broadly Trusted’

Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg / Getty Images

Facebook announced Friday it will ask users to grade news organizations based on trustworthiness in order to combat "sensationalism, misinformation, and polarization."

News shared on the social networking site has drawn scrutiny since the 2016 presidential election, and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he wants the site to focus more on personal interactions. As such, posts from news pages will populate a smaller portion of users news feeds, and Facebook will trust users to determine what sources should appear.

"We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective," Zuckerberg wrote.

"As part of our ongoing quality surveys, we will now ask people whether they're familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source," he added. "The idea is that some news organizations are only trusted by their readers or watchers, and others are broadly trusted across society even by those who don't follow them directly."

After President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, Facebook faced criticism for allowing too much pro-Trump "fake news" onto its site. Trump appropriated the term soon after by using it on his critics in the media, but Facebook has remained under scrutiny for how users can be exposed to news and news-related content, a portion of which was apparently produced with help from Russians trying to influence the election.

Zuckerberg said social media’s power to distribute content quickly and widely makes Facebook responsible to promote "high quality news."

"There's too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today," he wrote. "Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before, and if we don't specifically tackle these problems, then we end up amplifying them. That's why it's important that News Feed promotes high quality news that helps build a sense of common ground."

Facebook considered other ways of controlling misinformation on its platform but it could not decide on an objective way to judge the quality of different publications. Facebook has dealt with controversies in the past when conservative news sources have alleged unfair treatment, and the company claims this new system will put the power in users’ hands.

This change is separate from a recent redesign to Facebook’s user news feed, which brought posts from news publications down from 5 percent to 4 percent of what users see. With less of their content getting into news feeds, publications are likely to covet "broadly trusted" grades from users.

Zuckerberg said the company is not "comfortable" deciding what news users see, but he is willing to prioritize personal interactions and friends’ posts over news. Still, Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of Americans get news from social media.