People make judgments about a story’s credibility through a wide range of factors. Do they recognize the publisher’s name? How long has the publisher been around? Which of their trusted friends and family also read this source?
As we began to explore other ways to design this feature, we surveyed and spoke to people about how they consumed news and other links on Facebook. We read dozens of academic research papers and grounded our explorations in studies about “source credibility.”
Source credibility is a concept that started in television and newspaper studies in the 1980s and more recently expanded to online content, showing the shift in audiences’ uses of reporters’ style, facial expressions, and choice of topics to judge news content to the ways in which online social systems can provide additional social signals about news-related information.
Understanding perceptions of credibility is complex: factors from publisher familiarity to design features, from message language to individual verification skills, all impact how people determine if an article is high or low quality. We paired our reading on this topic with other research covering how people interpret signals or warnings, how people think about news through political biases such as “selective exposure”, “motivated reasoning”, and more. We also considered recent societal trends like major shifts in perceptions of misinformation (“most Americans believe it is now harder to be well-informed and to determine which news is accurate” Knight Foundation 2018) or trust in the media (“in many countries the underlying drivers of mistrust are as much to do with deep-rooted political polarization and perceived mainstream media bias,” Reuters Institute 2017).
What has been studied less frequently are the kinds of information signals that might work for people on Facebook. How might people respond to particular signals within the design of News Feed? What unique objective information is Facebook best positioned to provide?
We began to explore these questions through surveys, finding that people encountered difficulty with determining the credibility of information (already-discovered in recent academic research) related in particular to unfamiliar websites and highly partisan content. We then took the next step to explore potential design options through a loose Design Sprint process. Early last year, we gathered a dozen designers and researchers, with whom we collaborated on designing a surface for these new bits of information as well as what that information — segmented into modules — could look like.