Tech Companies Try Crowd Sourcing The News To Boost Credibility

Apr 28, 2017

Two of the world’s best-known technology companies are asking their online audience to boost the credibility of information on the internet.

Google is rolling out a new "Feedback" feature that pops up a little survey window that asks you to rate the value of the information from its algorithms. And this week, Jimi Wales, founder of the ultimate crowd-source site, Wikipedia, has announced “WikiTribune,” a crowd-sourced news site.  Wales said his goal is to raise enough money to hire and pay 10 journalists, who will then collaborate with the crowd to uncover information.

“These are both a new take on crowd sourcing,” said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

The Google effort is something users opt into, so people searching for a quick snippet of info won’t run into the pop-up screen. McBride said users have to look at the bottom of the “People Also Ask” box or at the bottom of a search result box for the word “Feedback” in tiny type.

“If you click on that, the multiple choice options will pop up for you,” she said. “And you can tell Google if something is inaccurate or misleading or if it’s hate speech.”

The “WikiTribune” project is trying a slightly more involved approach, asking users to work alongside paid reporters on stories.

“It’s trying to get the crowd to do more reporting, especially some of the heavy lifting in reporting, like sorting through data,” she said.

There are some potential problems with both concepts, McBride said. For example, crowdsourcing went horribly wrong in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, when people scouring online images of the finish line rallied together in an informal group and misidentified the culprit.

“Anytime you ask the crowd to help you out, sometimes you get badly intentioned people, or you get people who just aren’t very good at what they do…the crowd can really take off in a harmful direction without some kind of guiding force,” McBride said.