How social media plans to earn your trust again

If Facebook and Twitter want to hold on to their users and advertisers, they'll have to earn everyone's trust again — including Trump's.
5 September 2018

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will appear in Washington today. Source: Kimberly White/Getty Images for Vanity Fair/AFP

Today, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg will speak to lawmakers in Washington today, to talk about building a platform that everyone can trust.

According to testimony prepared and released to the media before the hearings, both companies seem to be open to ideas and willing to make the effort needed to earn back the trust of users.

“We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules impartially. We do not shadowban anyone based on political ideology. In fact, from a simple business perspective and to serve the public conversation, Twitter is incentivized to keep all voices on the platform,” said Dorsey’s statement.

“We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act. That’s on us,” explained Sandberg’s testimony. “At its best, Facebook plays a positive role in our democratic process—and we know we have a responsibility to protect that process on our service.”

The fact is, both companies understand that they need users to trust them if they want to continue growing and succeeding. If users feel that they cannot trust the conversations on these platforms, they’re not going to use them actively or be engaged. As engagement drops, advertising revenues will drop too.

Intentions are good, but what’s the plan?

Well, it seems as though both Facebook and Twitter are taking solid steps to transform how their platforms support the global community — facilitating conversations while fighting off bad actors, political or otherwise.

Twitter, for example, is becoming more and more reliant on algorithms and machine learning (ML) technologies to handle millions of its users. “With 335 million people using Twitter every month in dozens of languages and countless cultural contexts, we rely upon machine learning algorithms to help us organize content by relevance,” said Dorsey.

Here are five areas where the text-first social media platform is deploying intelligent technologies:

  1. Timeline ranking and filtering
  2. Conversations
  3. Safe search
  4. Behavioral signals and safeguards
  5. Additional context to high profile incidents

Sandberg’s statement, on the other hand, revealed that Facebook has more than doubled the number of people working on safety and security and now have over 20,000 members on its task force. The company claims to review reports in over 50 languages, 24 hours a day, and says it has deployed better ML and AI solutions to proactively identify abuse.

Here are some of the things Facebook is currently using intelligent technologies, in hopes of earning back the trust of its users:

  1. Removing fake accounts
  2. Preventing co-ordinated inauthentic behavior
  3. Tackling false news
  4. Increasing ad transparency
  5. Preventing foreign interference around the world

Can Trump trust social media?

Well, the question that lawmakers should be asking is, can the American public (and the rest of the world) trust social media and rely on the ‘news’ — thoughts, ideas, stories, suggestions, and comments — they read there?

“I think they (Facebook, Twitter, and Google) treat Republicans and conservatives very unfairly. It’s not right, it’s not fair, it may not be legal,” said US President Donald Trump recently. According to him, there’s a form of censorship that’s promoting fake news and hiding stories of the good work he does.

However, both Dorsey and Sandberg’s statements have claimed that they avoid favoring any one political party or entity in any geography, in the US or anywhere else in the world. Facebook goes a step further and makes political ad spends more transparent — an effort that all stakeholders have applauded.

The world’s biggest social media platforms seem to be trying really hard to gain back the trust of their users. Although much hasn’t been achieved, Facebook and Twitter both appear to be taking steps in the right direction.

If everything does go well, trust might be restored — but it will be a good idea to continue taking things with a grain of salt.