Can The Trust Project’s Trust Indicators Help Thwart Fake News?

Facebook is initially testing Trust Indicators with 'a small group of publishers'

A Facebook News Feed article you can trust? Facebook
Headshot of David Cohen

Facebook, Twitter, Google and Bing are teaming up with the nonpartisan Trust Project to fire the latest salvo in the skirmish against fake news.

The Trust Project is funded by the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, Google, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Markkula Foundation.

The Trust Project—which is led by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman of Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics—announced Thursday that several leading media companies representing dozens of news sites have begun displaying Trust Indicators, which provide clarity on organizations’ ethics and standards, as well as journalists’ backgrounds.

Those going live with Trust Indicators in November include 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 outlined its eight core Trust Indicators:

  • 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.

Facebook product manager Andrew Anker discussed the social network’s participation in the initiative in a blog post, saying that starting Thursday, it will begin testing the display of Trust Indicators through its Article Context module.

Facebook began a test in October aimed at giving users more context about articles they see in their News Feeds, and Thursday’s announcement marks the next step.

Anker said Facebook is initially testing Trust Indicators with “a small group of publishers,” with more to be added “in the coming months.”

Publishers that are part of the test group can access the Brand Asset Library in their Page Publishing Tools to provide additional information on topics such as ethics policy, corrections policy, fact-checking policy, ownership structure and masthead. That information will then be displayed as additional context accompanying News Feed articles.

Anker said Facebook decided to begin with the Trust Project’s initial Trust Indicators based on direct feedback from publishers, and it will explore expansion “over time.”

He wrote, “We believe that helping people access this important contextual information can help them evaluate if articles are from a publisher they trust and if the story itself is credible. This step is part of our larger efforts to combat false news and misinformation on Facebook—providing people with more context to help them make more informed decisions, advance news literacy and education, and working to reinforce indicators of publisher integrity on our platform.”

Lehrman said in a release announcing the debut of Trust Indicators: “In today’s digitized and socially networked world, it’s harder than ever to tell what’s accurate reporting, advertising or even misinformation. An increasingly skeptical public wants to know the expertise, enterprise and ethics behind a news story. The Trust Indicators put tools into people’s hands, giving them the means to assess whether news comes from a credible source they can depend on.”

craigslist founder Craig Newmark added: “News consumers need a way to tell media companies what we expect from them, the types of news we can count on and will pay for. The Trust Indicators set standards for media outlets and allow news people to commit to good-faith reporting that’s worth buying.” David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.