Last November, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Bing teamed up with nonpartisan global network of news organizations The Trust Project on Trust Indicators, aimed at helping to validate legitimate news publishers and weeding out fake news.
Media partners at launch included dpa, The Economist, The Globe and Mail, the Independent Journal Review, Mic, La Repubblica, La Stampa, Trinity Mirror and The Washington Post.
The Trust Project announced Tuesday that 20 more news organizations are now on board with its efforts to increase transparency and trust in news media, meaning that more than 120 news sites around the world are now displaying Trust Indicators, and over 200 in total are committed to completing the process of doing so in both their markup language or user-experience designs.
Trust Indicators now reach 217 million people each month.
Mic publisher Cory Haik said her company had already been working on a trust initiative of its own—conducting focus groups with users to get feedback on features that it was considering to help with transparency and trust—before teaming up with The Trust Project, adding, “What we thought would be helpful to users wasn’t necessarily that helpful to users.”
Haik said The Trust Project ended up using a lot of the research Mic had already done and several protocols from its early work.
In addition to the launch partners mentioned above, Trust Indicators have been available since last year on sites owned by the BBC, FourFourTwo (U.K.), Hearst Television, Stuff (U.K.) and Reach (U.K.).
Facebook communications manager for news product Mari Melguizo said the social network could not share specific numbers about the use of Trust Indicators, but “in general, we’ve found that people do find additional context about the articles they see on Facebook to be a valuable tool when determining the credibility of an article. We think there’s a lot more we can do in terms of experiments in this space going forward, especially now that we’ve launched a new way for all interested news pages to provide us with optional information about their brands and best practices.”
Haik said that since adding Trust Indicators, Mic has received several emails thanking it for the additional context, and it has seen less feedback containing questions about its fact-checking policies and standards issues.
She added that links to reporters’ previous stories, additional related stories and footnoting “are not creative massive traffic, but people do click on them.”
Reach said that it found in a survey that after adding Trust Indicators to its flagship news outlet, The Mirror, trust in that publication rose 8 percent.
And the University of Texas-Austin’s Center for Media Engagement conducted an experiment that found that when Trust Indicators were present, it led to higher evaluations of the reputations of news organizations, including for trustworthiness and reliability.
Trust Indicators have now been added to sites including the Bay Area News Group, CBC News, Heavy, The Toronto Star, Tegna, Voice of Orange County, Walrus, Wisconsin Watch, Corriere della Sera (Italy), El Pais (Spain), Il Sole 24 (Italy), Kathimerini (Greece), Orb Media, SciDev.Net and Sky News (U.K.).
And companies that are in the process of adapting them include Canadian Press, Frontline, El Mundo (Spain), Star Tribune and Zeit Online (Germany).
The Trust Project added that the Institute for Nonprofit News’ INN Labs built and maintains a WordPress VIP-accepted plugin to help participants add the Trust Indicators to their sites.
When Facebook began the process of indexing news pages last month, it worked with The Trust Project to enable publishers to add information such as links to fact-checking, ethics and correction policies to their pages.
Facebook product manager Mollie Vandor said, “The research that went into the Trust Indicators gave us a solid starting point for this work. We plan to continue working with The Trust Project to explore different ways of displaying this information so that people can have a better understanding of the news they see on Facebook.”
The Trust Project’s eight core Trust Indicators are (examples pictured below courtesy of Mic):
- 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 Expertise: Who Reported This? Details about the journalist who wrote the story, including 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, greater 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 people know when the story has local origin or expertise.
- Diverse Voices: A newsroom’s efforts to bring in diverse perspectives.
- 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.
Each Trust indicator is visible to users on news partners’ pages, and it is also embedded in article and site code, enabling machines to red them and, The Trust Project said, “providing the first standardized technical language that offers contextual information about news sites’ commitments to transparency.”
The Trust Project is led by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman of Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.