Reliability Index for Websites


Roland Stahl
October, 2020


     I am reading about the story of the New York Post and the Hunter Biden emails.  The question is ~ what are the limits of censorship, and what are the responsibilities of Facebook, Twitter, and the others, for sheltering us from unreliable or inaccurate information disseminated from their platforms?

     Well, as usual, I have a solution for this serious problem.  First of all, some sort of oversight will just have to be in place ~ these days the internet is a wild jungle, in the depths of which you might come across information that is wholly unreliable.  How is the reader to know?  My solution is to have a rating system maintained by each platform.  To keep it very simple, we might suggest just three categories ~ A, which indicates a source of information generally agreed to be accurate and reliable; B, indicating a source for which there are enough negative reviews as to push the rating down to a level where the content cannot automatically be assumed to be reliable or accurate; or C, which indicates a source for which there is widespread concern that the site contains unreliable or inaccurate information.  This rating could be a simple square box at the top left of every article.  The default would be no rating at all.  When there are enough indications for the operative algorithm to trigger a rating, then it would appear in the box, color coded (A=Green; B=Blue; C=Red).  Every platform would maintain their own rating system.  Of course these ratings decisions would be disputed all the time, but at least there would be a marketplace of reliability that would eventually become more refined with consistent use.  

     In this way, no censorship need be implemented at all ~ any information might be published, but if the platform has reason to rate the source as in some degree unreliable, then their readers may be forewarned, yet still be allowed to read the material and make their own decisions for themselves.  If one clicks on any rating box, a pop-up would open up explaining the rating key, and also containing a link for anyone wishing to pursue the reasons for the particular rating decision.  

     This would provide a valuable service, helping readers to sort out reliable sources from questionable or crank (or quack) sources, yet allowing all material to be published, so the reader can make one’s own decision about the value of the material presented.  (This clumsy construction is my effort to use a suitable gender-neutral pronoun.)

     This whole concept could be expanded by implementing additional ratings, indicating different sorts of problems with the content, in the opinion of the platform host.  



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