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Jan. 25, 2018, 12:25 p.m.
Audience & Social

Facebook’s trust survey, which will help determine News Feed ranking, is two questions. But it’s not as simple as it sounds

What’s clear is that Facebook has plenty of data from users already, which it can — will — use in conjunction with its two-question survey.

Do you recognize the following websites: (Yes. No.)

That’s Facebook’s first question on a survey for users that Facebook wrote up itself, which the company will use as a signal that affects a news publisher’s ranking in the News Feed, according to BuzzFeed News, which first obtained the entire survey.

Here’s the second — and final — question Facebook intends to ask its users: How much do you trust each of these domains? (Options: Entirely / A lot / Somewhat / Barely / Not at all)

From publishers, eyerolls and snark ensued, as well as that ever-present baseline fear of traffic to news sites drying up and the “bloodletting” to come at organizations fixated on that absolute traffic number. Mark Zuckerberg has said in a Facebook post that these updates would “not change the amount of news [users] see on Facebook,” and that these “tweaks for trust” would only mean a change in the “balance of news you see towards sources that are determined to be trusted by the community.”

The survey is brief; how exactly it’ll be used is less clean cut. Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s VP for News Feed and media Twitter’s favorite Facebook rep has responded directly, and with some specificity, to questions and comments on Facebook and Twitter.

How big a ranking signal is this “trust” thing? Casey Newton of The Verge asked, and sort of got an answer:

What’s clear is that Facebook has plenty of data from users already, which it can — will — use in conjunction with its two-question survey.

Embedded in the trust question are additional user characteristics: Facebook is looking at how trusted a news organization is, by a range of users, with a range of news consumption habits.

Some offered other ideas for measuring trust. Mike Caulfield, head of the Digital Polarization Initiative at the American Democracy Project, laid out this suggestion.

From the rollout of the News Feed announcement to Facebook’s follow-up, it can really feel as if there’s a disconnect between teams (it’s a pure engineering problem vs. algorithms are flawed and need a human touch) and among its leadership (why has Facebook’s head of news partnerships Campbell Brown been so quiet?).

Some things are certain: Facebook will roll out new products for news. Announcements will use the phrases “meaningful connections” and “friends and family” and “community.” And news organizations will still stay on the platform, only a little bit less visible to users, and a little bit more battered by uncertainty.

POSTED     Jan. 25, 2018, 12:25 p.m.
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