WE THE PEOPLE
Credder: An Antidote to Fake News
by Barbie E. Keiser
Fake news exists on a continuum that includes exaggerations to make a point, unsubstantiated or erroneous claims that contribute to confusion, outright falsehoods or misinformation, and disinformation campaigns resulting in the spread of harmful information that can compel people to (or dissuade them from) an action, thwarting their true intent. Individual articles or sources may be unreliable for a number of reasons, accidentally or purposely, incidentally or wholly and consistently.
Various approaches help the public distinguish between fact-based news and news that is false. These remedies differ by the type of organization tackling the issue (e.g., a not-for-profit organization, academic institution, consortium of news organizations, individual publication, tech giant, or startup), the content being fact-checked (e.g., political or scientific), and user targets (e.g., students or the general public).
Several entities concentrate on prescriptive measures (e.g., media literacy training), while others call for regulating news platforms to minimize exposure to untruths. Technology companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter are trying to get a handle on controlling the spread of fake news—with mixed results. Startups are using AI and machine learning to help journalists and fact-checkers detect and fight fake news, images, audio, and video by studying how fake news is shared online and how that differs from the ways in which real news stories spread across the web.
Credder (credder.com) began in 2016 as Tribeworthy. Its three entrepreneurial-minded co-founders—Chase Palmieri, Austin Walter, and Jared Fesler—were interested in fighting fake news by celebrating good journalism. They continue to believe that the hallmark of good reporting is not getting the most clicks, but becoming a trusted source to which avid news consumers will turn for information.
The Credder rating system is similar to that of Rotten Tomatoes—not surprising, as Patrick Lee, its co-founder, serves as an advisor to Credder. On the site, users see an article’s headline, source, publication date, and number of words, as well as an estimated time it will take to read the article. Below the first few sentences, there is a Read More link. When users click it, they are taken to the news producer’s website, on which the full text is available.
Journalists act as the professional class of reviewers (Critic raters), who, along with registered news consumers (User raters), review each piece and indicate their level of trust at the article level (for an example, see Figure 1). If reviewers don’t trust an item, they must indicate why. Credder’s review form consists of a comment area and five buttons (Credible, Illogical, Biased, Mistake, Not Credible), each with subcategories to inform readers why the piece might be considered illogical (e.g., speculation or faulty analogy), biased (e.g., political agenda or financial incentive), to contain a mistake (e.g., misused term or factual error), or not credible (e.g., lack of reliable sources or website not credible).
So as not to skew the results, an article must have at least three reviews before a rating is calculated. The icons accompanying each rating are pieces of cheese, with those below 60% appearing as moldy cheese. On the whole, Credder reviews tend to be thoughtful, providing context for the more complex issues being covered. There are more than 5,000 registered users, plus 300 professional journalists acting as Critic raters. (Requirements for becoming a Critic rater are at credder.com/requirements). Some are active participants, uploading articles and reviewing others they come across, but other users are more passive, merely using Credder for easy access to articles that are highly rated as trustworthy.
Credder’s Chrome browser extension displays a notification when users land on an article that’s being reviewed, making it easy to participate. Reviewed articles on the web or within Facebook will show a Credder rating. When users are finished reading, they have the opportunity to review the item and leave feedback in just a few clicks. (Additional browser extensions are coming soon.) Ratings for individual articles contribute to ratings for the author. These ratings, combined with ratings for other journalists from a news outlet, form the basis for outlet-based ratings displayed on the leaderboard (see Figure 2 below).
Journalists and news outlets are encouraged to claim their Credder pages. This allows authors and publishers to engage with their readers, respond to reviews, and track their performance over time. Credder’s Partner Program stems from a deep-seated belief that news outlets control their content and individual authors their own brand. Participants can obtain code snippets for a Review Article With Credder button. That way, news producers can keep readers on their site, but give them an easy way to provide feedback.
As noted by Palmieri in a recent It’s All Journalism podcast (itsalljournalism.com/370-whats-your-credder-rating), even avid news junkies have limited time to devote to finding news stories to read. They may have to look at more than one article before fully comprehending complex issues. (Credder’s solution reminds me of memeorandum.com, on which a story may be covered by several outlets, and the user gets to choose which to read.)
As with any startup, a stream of recurring revenue is necessary. Credder is exploring how revenue could be derived by licensing its ratings to third parties, such as Facebook and Apple News. Credder could also become a Patreon for news, with users able to contribute financially to journalists whom they feel are doing a good job. In the view of the co-founders, media literacy is “at the heart of the platform” (projectcensored.org/credder-the-future-of-validated-news). Educators and librarians involved in information and media literacy training could easily become a second trusted class of professional reviewers on Credder.