Facebook’s much vaunted attempt to oust fake news from the News Feed and restore trustworthiness consists of just two questions, it’s been confirmed. The social network surprised many – not least investors – when it announced earlier this month that it would rework its algorithms to prioritize personal news from friends over content from brands and news sources.
“We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time. “The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”
In response, news sites have generally reported a dramatic tail-off in traffic referred from Facebook. However, there were also loud questions as to just how the social site would judge which news sources were “legitimate” and which were untrustworthy. Facebook later said that it would poll users for that, and now the mechanism for that poll has surfaced.
It’s fairly concise, too. Buzzfeed acquired a copy of the survey – which a company spokesperson confirmed that is, indeed, the only version that Facebook currently has in circulation – and it turns out it consists of just two questions:
Do you recognize the following websites
How much do you trust each of these domains
Not at all
Zuckerberg had given some indication of how the trustworthiness process would be carried out. In a post last week, shared unsurprisingly on Facebook itself, he described polling both familiarity and reliability as the two key metrics. However, at the time the expectation was that Facebook’s actual survey would be a little more nuanced than what the CEO described.
“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. 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. (We eliminate from the sample those who aren’t familiar with a source, so the output is a ratio of those who trust the source to those who are familiar with it.)” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
Now, it’s fair to assume that the proportion of people who respond to surveys is closely related to how long that survey is. Nonetheless, there are still – reasonable – concerns that asking an audience already manipulated by fake news, including articles promoted by foreign governments during the US presidential campaign in an apparent attempt to sway the result in favor of one candidate over another, may not be the very best way to gage what content is legitimate.