Trust­wor­thy scores ex­plained


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FAKE NEWS CON­TIN­UES to be big news, but re­cent rev­e­la­tions from the of­fices of Face­book sug­gest that the so­cial net­work – which has, more than any other, fallen vic­tim to the ef­fects of fab­ri­cated or bi­ased re­port­ing – has been work­ing on re­duc­ing the amount you see. For more than a year, Face­book has been de­vel­op­ing a so-called ‘trust­wor­thi­ness score’, which it now ap­plies to cer­tain users to de­ter­mine whether or not their ac­tions are honourable.


Face­book hasn’t said how the score is de­ter­mined, and re­futes sug­ges­tions that the tool could be used as a so­cial rat­ing sys­tem, though its lack of trans­parency does raise ques­tions. The point is that, as a user, you won’t see the results of it. And like Face­book’s ex­ist­ing (and frankly baf­fling) al­go­rithm, it could lead to posts be­ing hid­den and jum­bled around. If the trust­wor­thi­ness score is used on your ac­count, will you know? If your friends’ sta­tus up­dates sud­denly dis­ap­pear from your home­page, will you no­tice? Could Face­book in­ad­ver­tently – or, in­deed, de­lib­er­ately – use this to tear friend groups apart, or to squash busi­nesses that rely on their Face­book pages to stay afloat?

The an­swer, as far as we have been able to de­ter­mine, is ‘not right now’. At press time, the score is only fed to Face­book’s in­ter­nal mis­in­for­ma­tion team for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, pri­mar­ily to de­ter­mine if true news is be­ing falsely flagged as fake in or­der to game the sys­tem, and to iden­tify those users do­ing so. Since 2016, Face­book has been work­ing with ex­ter­nal com­pa­nies to in­ves­ti­gate the le­git­i­macy of flagged posts, and this isn’t likely to change. It’s also not the first time a so­cial net­work has hid­den a rat­ing sys­tem be­low the sur­face – in 2010, Twit­ter em­ployed a sim­i­lar met­ric to rank users, in or­der to aid the com­pany in rec­om­mend­ing new users to fol­low.

There is still a hu­man ele­ment, too. Un­less some­one in Face­book’s of­fices starts get­ting very ma­li­cious, the trust­wor­thi­ness score should only af­fect those who aren’t trust­wor­thy: re­port fake news le­git­i­mately, and you’ll get a high score, giv­ing more weight to your re­port­ing in the fu­ture.

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