Facebook, under pressure to thwart fake news, said last week it would survey users to find out which news publications they deem trustworthy.
It turns out the survey the social media giant is using asks just two questions: whether a user has heard of a certain website, and whether the user trusts that domain entirely, a lot, somewhat, barely or not at all.
Facebook confirmed to BuzzFeed, which first reported about the survey questions, that there is only one version of the survey being circulated.
Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post that “there’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarisation in the world today… That’s why it’s important that News Feed promotes high quality news that helps build a sense of common ground” – and pretty much said the survey would contain exactly what it contains.
Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed at Facebook, answered journalists’ concerns Jan 23 on Twitter: “I understand that some people may balk at how simple a survey is, but complicated surveys can be confusing and bias signal, and meaningful patterns can emerge from broad surveys.”
Mosseri also said: “The other important thing to understand is this isn’t a simple vote. We are not just valuing more publishers that a lot of people trust, but rather valuing more publishers that a lot of different types of people (based on reading habits) trust.”
Facebook, which claims to have 2 billion users, has said hundreds of fake accounts and pages with ties to a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency ran a few thousand ads during a period that included the 2016 US presidential election. The company said last year that about 10 million Facebook users saw the Russia-linked ads, which focused on divisive topics such as race, gun rights and immigration.
The criticism of Facebook and other social media over their role in helping spread misinformation is growing. For example, Facebook investor Roger McNamee has been writing op-eds and appearing in TV interviews recently, offering his suggestions on how to “fix” Facebook and claiming the company has brushed off his concerns.
Rupert Murdoch – media mogul of Fox News and Wall Street Journal fame, among others – is seizing this opportunity to go after Facebook and is calling on the company to pay for “trusted” news like cable companies pay for TV content.
And this week in Davos, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff reportedly said Facebook should be regulated “exactly the same way that you regulated the cigarette industry” because of social media’s potentially harmful effects.