Media Outlets, Facebook and Google Adding Transparency to Online News

An international pool of news outlets want to quell the spread of fake news online through new transparency and credibility standards for digital news publishing.

The Trust Project is a global initiative to promote quality news and help readers identify trustworthy news sources online, including those shared through social platforms and search engines.

More than 75 news outlets collaborated to design what they’re calling Trust Indicators: key information about a news outlet, an author, a story’s sources and more. This information will be featured in articles shared online.

Facebook, Google, Twitter and Bing—perhaps the largest online news distributors—have partnered on the project too.

The digital platforms will use machine-readable signals from the Trust Indicators to surface quality news to their users, according to an announcement from the Trust Project. The social and search sites will also include the Trust Indicators next to shared articles, making it easier for the public to assess if what they’re reading is credible journalism, promotional content or misinformation.

The initiative is being led by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman and hosted by Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

“In today’s digitized and socially networked world, it’s harder than ever to tell what’s accurate reporting, advertising, or even misinformation,” Lehrman said in a statement.

“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,” she added.

The first batch of news organizations starting to go live with the Trust Indicators include The Economist, The Globe and Mail, and The Washington Post. The project expects more news outlets to join the initiative over the next six months, and said a second wave of news partners will roll out the indicators soon.

Google is one of the key funders of the Trust Project, in addition to initial funder Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist.

“Quality journalism has never been more important,” said Richard Gingras, vice president of news products at Google.

“Partnering with the Trust Project since its conception has been of significant importance to Google, in large part because we believe the indicators can help our algorithms better understand authoritative journalism – and help us to better surface it to consumers.”

Facebook, Google to Add New Level of Transparency

Facebook announced the Trust Indicators have been added to a small group of news publishers with plans of expanding the new labelling to other outlets over the coming months. The reliability information will be added to the ‘i’ context button, a publisher information panel Facebook started testing in October to curb misinformation facilitated on the social site.

“The Trust Indicators will provide a new level of accessibility and insight into the news that people on Facebook see day in and day out,” said Alex Hardiman, head of news products at Facebook in a statement.

“We view this as a great next step in our ongoing efforts overall to enhance people’s understanding of the sources and trustworthiness of news on our platform.”

Google doesn’t yet know exactly how it will display the trust indicators, but is working on how they may appear next to news articles on Google News, Google Search, and other Google products, the company wrote in a blog post.

“Some possible treatments could include using the ‘Type of Work’ indicator to improve the accuracy of article labels in Google News, and indicators such as ‘Best Practices’ and ‘Author Info’ in our Knowledge Panels,” the company writes.

Facebook, Google and Twitter have all unveiled their own initiatives to fight the spread of fake news this year, but the Trust Project is setting a new industry standard for digital news publishing.