Big Zuck is watching you


We get to rate websites (well, pretty much everything), it’s only to be expected that they rate us back:

Facebook is rating users based on how “trustworthy” it thinks they are.

Users receive a score on a scale from zero to one that determines if they have a good or bad reputation – but it’s completely hidden.

The rating system was revealed in a report by the Washington Post – and later confirmed by Facebook to The Sun – which says it’s in place to “help identify malicious actors”.

Facebook tracks your behaviour across its site and uses that info to assign you a rating.

Tessa Lyons, who heads up Facebook’s fight against fake news, said: “One of the signals we use is how people interact with articles.

“For example, if someone previously gave us feedback that an article was false and the article was confirmed false by a fact-checker, then we might weight that person’s future false news feedback more than someone who indiscriminately provides false news feedback on lots of articles, including ones that end up being rated as true.”

Earlier this year, Facebook admitted it was rolling out trust ratings for media outlets.

This involved ranking news websites based on the quality of the news they were reporting.

This rating would then be used to decide which posts should be promoted higher in users’ News Feeds.

User ratings are employed in a similar way – helping Facebook make a judgement about the quality of their post reports.

This looks like becoming a self-enforcing loop – since the biased fast-checkers will target and discriminate against predominantly right-of-centre publications, the left-wing users who flag this content will be confirmed as trustworthy. Conservatives, by contrast, will be getting “bad reputation” for doing the opposite. From “fake news” to “fake people”, or, as Facebook delightfully calls them now, “malicious actors”.

Facebook, of course, is a private company and can do whatever it wants – within the law. No one is forcing people to join and stay as users. That’s not to say that social platforms like Facebook don’t have an enormous amount of power and influence, and are often using it for political ends (mostly, acting as the left’s outsourced private sector censors). This is regrettable but not illegal (though Facebook tries to have it both ways, sometimes presenting itself as a forum and sometimes as a publisher). One suspects that the exodus of users and declining stock value are causally related.

It’s much more concerning when government starts rating its people, as it’s doing in China with its Social Credit Score. At worst, Facebook can make you online experience on the platform inferior or exclude you altogether. The Chinese government, by contrast, can decide your life:

People with low ratings will have slower internet speeds; restricted access to restaurants, nightclubs or golf courses; and the removal of the right to travel freely abroad with, I quote, “restrictive control on consumption within holiday areas or travel businesses”. Scores will influence a person’s rental applications, their ability to get insurance or a loan and even social-security benefits. Citizens with low scores will not be hired by certain employers and will be forbidden from obtaining some jobs, including in the civil service, journalism and legal fields, where of course you must be deemed trustworthy. Low-rating citizens will also be restricted when it comes to enrolling themselves or their children in high-paying private schools.

I hope my Facebook rating is suitably low – I need to add “malicious actor” to my resume.