Facebook has been scrutinized more than ever this year, especially after the Cambridge Analytica news break, which revealed the dark side of data misuse happening behind closed doors that deceived nearly 2 billion users. Since then, the company stepped into the spotlight with an advertising campaign that ran from April through July acknowledging the problems and concerns surrounding its credibility. The ad claimed Facebook is committed to keeping its users’ information safe and returning to its original purpose—bringing people from around the world together.
Moving forward, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been making changes to lead the company in a direction that aligns with these advertised promises. In June, he made a post with the sentiment that with the great power that comes with hosting 2 billion users a month, comes even greater responsibility.
While Facebook continues to be a platform for constant connectivity to our friends, family, colleagues, and peers, it seems to also be striving to become a platform for reliable information by steering away from the “fake news” circulating the Internet today.
In January, Facebook announced user surveys to rank news media outlets by their level of trustworthiness. These rating systems have the ability to promote some news outlets and downgrade others based on the truthfulness of the content they produce and the reputation they maintain. In the last year, trustworthiness rankings have expanded to include the site’s own users as well.
The social network’s new rating strategy is a major part of their effort to rebrand the company as a trustworthy social media platform. While the flagging feature was already in place before the rating system, users were found to report content they disagreed with, which is verified by third-party fact-checkers. Now a user’s trustworthiness rating will play a part in getting to the truth on a scale that ranges from zero to one, including how valid their word is on information they post or content they flag. Facebook also says that there are thousands of other tools to determine user credibility, although most of it isn’t yet public. For now, they’re keeping quiet about how these algorithms work in order to, according to Facebook, prevent people from “gaming the system.”
The question is whether this secrecy does more harm than good as Facebook users are being labeled and judged without knowing what the standards are and how their credibility is at stake. The argument remains whether or not it’s ok with users to leave these sensitive judgments up to Facebook’s ruling in order to maintain a “fake-news free” online experience. In a time where the flow of information to people across the world relies so heavily on these powerful social media sites, we’re seeing them interact more and more with the government as their platforms continue to have lasting, and sometimes detrimental, effects. We already see the damage that social media does in our everyday lives, with one wrong post on our profile costing some a job. While questions of privacy and free speech are still looming, one thing’s for sure: the people have it’s eye on you now, Facebook.
by Aura Altamiranda