I recently discovered that the people at Facebook, Google, Bing (Microsoft), and others have partnered with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University to create something called The Trust Project. It is an effort to weed out fake news and opinion pieces on the web from factual and credible stories.
Led by Senior Director, Sally Lehrman, a journalist herself, The Trust Project aims to add metadata to online content called “Trust Indicators” to give readers more information about the accuracy of what they are about to read. The indicator of trustworthy news that will be used in the process are, found on the organization’s website, are:
- Best Practices: What are your standards? Who funds the news outlet? What is the outlet’s mission? Plus commitments to ethics, diverse voices, accuracy, making corrections and other standards.
- Author/Reporter Expertise: Who made this? Details about the journalist, including their expertise and other stories they have worked on.
- Type of Work: What is this? Labels to distinguish opinion, analysis and advertiser (or sponsored) content from news reports.
- Citations and References: For investigative or in-depth stories, access to the sources behind the facts and assertions.
- Methods: Also for in-depth stories, information about why reporters chose to pursue a story and how they went about the process.
- Locally Sourced? Lets you know when the story has local origin or expertise. Was the reporting done on the scene, with deep knowledge about the local situation or community?
- Diverse Voices: A newsroom’s efforts and commitment to bringing in diverse perspectives. Readers noticed when certain voices, ethnicities, or political persuasions were missing.
- Actionable Feedback: A newsroom’s efforts to engage the public’s help in setting coverage priorities, contributing to the reporting process, ensuring accuracy and other areas. Readers want to participate and provide feedback that might alter or expand a story.1
How this information might be presented on a web page is demonstrated at the bottom of this mockup page.
Lehrman describes it as “a nutrition label on a package of food, or a lab report that conveys your health status when you go in for a checkup.”
The Trust Mark
Sites that participate in The Trust Project consortium may use this logo (left) called The Trust Mark. This means that the websites which show this logo have machine-readable metadata tags that tell search engines and other web scrapers that the site abides by the project’s Statement or Principles.
I’m interested in seeing how this pans out. I really hope that it does some good in the world. My only over-arching concern is that for one group (working with a machine algorithm) to determine what is trustworthy and what is not could be dangerous – if not at first then slowly over time, as readers begin to rely on the The Trust Mark. The large corporations who are beta testing this thing have their moneys in politics, and it could be so easy for them to want voters to trust only one kind of viewpoint.