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The Trust Project, increasing transparency of news
November 26, 2017, 4:17 pm

In recent years, fake news and other misinformation, online propaganda, and satirical content people believe to be true have filled the web via search engines and social media. This has resulted in people beginning to question the veracity of news organizations and the quality of their coverage.

Now, a nonpartisan effort called The Trust Project is working to address this situation by helping online users distinguish between reliable journalism and promotional content or misinformation.

A key part of that effort is something called ‘Trust Indicators’ that offer easy-to-access, transparent information about a news organization’s ethics and practices.

The ‘Trust Indicators’ provide search engines and social media platforms the consistent technical standards they need to surface quality news. Technology partners of the Trust Project include among others, Google, Facebook, Bing and Twitter.

Facebook launched these indicators last week. Here is how it will work. On Facebook an icon will appear next to articles in the News Feed. When you click on this icon, you can read information the publisher has shared related to their organization’s ethics and other standards, the journalists’ backgrounds, and how the organization does its work.

On Google, the Trust Indicators will appear within Google News, Google Search, and in other Google products where news is found, the company explained in a blog post. However, Google says it is still determining how exactly the Indicators will be displayed.

The Trust Project itself was started by journalist Sally Lehrman of Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, and is funded by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark’s Philanthropic Fund, Google, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the Markkula Foundation.

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

Specifically, The Trust Project has released eight Trust Indicators created by leaders from over 75 news organizations that will offer additional transparency about an organization’s ethics and practices.

The indicators are: 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? Allows people to 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.

The first news organizations to adopt the Trust Indicators are going live this month, including The German press agency dpa, The Economist, The Globe and Mail, the Independent Journal Review, Mic, Italy’s La Repubblica and La Stampa, Trinity Mirror and The Washington Post.  Several more outlets are expected to adopt these indicators in the coming months.


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