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Facebook rates users, draws comparison to Communists

Barack Obama and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook, beleaguered in recent months by multiple credible complaints that it unfairly censors conservatives, now is drawing comparisons to Community China after an official revealed that it has ratings for its users.

And keeps them secret.

“Online commentators are already comparing the system to China’s creepy ‘social credit’ system,” noted The Sun.

Sean Keach’s report there explained the social media company 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.”

A report from the Washington Post said the scores range from zero to 1.

It explained the company’s “fight against the gaming of tech systems has evolved to include measuring the credibility of users to help identify malicious actors.”

The confirmation came from Tessa Lyons, the company’s “product manager who is in charge of fighting misinformation,” the report said.

“The company, like others in tech, has long relied on its users to report problematic content — but as Facebook has given people more options, some users began falsely reporting items as untrue, a new twist on information warfare for which it had to account,” said the report.

Lyons said, in fact, it’s not uncomment for people to flag something as false “simply because they disagree with the premise of a story.”

Lyons said the score isn’t supposed to be an absolute indicator of credibility. Instead, she said, it’s one of many factors – “behavioral clues” – that Facebook considers.

“It is unclear what other criteria Facebook measures to determine a user’s score, whether all users have a score and in what ways the scores are used,” the Post explained

But the user scores come as social media sites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more, are facing allegations that Russians are using them to interfere with U.S. elections, and there’s “fake news” all over.

The companies are working on ways to use computer assessments – algorithms – to identify problems.

“Twitter, for example, now factors in the behavior of other accounts in a person’s network as a risk factor in judging whether a person’s tweets should be spread,” the report said.

And they are secret.

“Not knowing how [Facebook is] judging us is what makes us uncomfortable,” Claire Wardle, director of First Draft, a research lab within Harvard’s Kennedy School that focuses on the impact of misinformation and that is a fact-checking partner of Facebook, told the Post. “But the irony is that they can’t tell us how they are judging us — because if they do, the algorithms that they built will be gamed.”

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It was a few years back that Facebook starting letting users respond if they believed a report was hate speech or false.

But Lyon said people then were reporting posts as false “simply because they did not agree with the content,” the report said.

It was only months ago that Facebook confessed it was rolling out trust ratings for media outlets.

The Sun pointed out that in China, peoples’ social media habits and online purchases are used to generate a score, which can be damaged by jaywalking or skipping train fares.

But the impact is huge. Those government tabulations decide whether a person can travel, or buy.

In fact, CBS New York also reported recently China planned a personal score for each of its 1.4 billion people.

“It’s believed that community service and buying Chinese-made products can raise your score,” the report said. “Fraud, tax evasion and smoking in non-smoking areas can drop it.”

At Technology Review, Christina Larson reported that political scientist and China expert Deborah Seligsohn was among those who say technology is a main focus in China now.

“No government has a more ambitious and far-reaching plan to harness the power of data to change the way it governs than the Chinese government,” added Martin Chorzempa of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

Now those records are being used on bloggers, activists and lawyers – who are “being systematically silenced or imprisoned,” the report said.

Chief is that nation’s Social Credit System, which covers people and businesses and is intended to build “sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, and judicial credibility.”