W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-credentials@w3.org > July 2021

Re: Digital Press Passes and Decentralized Public Key Infrastructures

From: Subbu Vincent <svincent@scu.edu>
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 2021 13:06:02 -0700
Message-ID: <CAHCTP+cX3+hue=p=ZFGqHLLuXmKmcRFgK7AfyCAZ48XzCkKntA@mail.gmail.com>
To: Bob Wyman <bob@wyman.us>
Cc: "Michael Herman (Trusted Digital Web)" <mwherman@parallelspace.net>, Scott Yates <scott@journallist.net>, Adam Sobieski <adamsobieski@hotmail.com>, "public-credibility@w3.org" <public-credibility@w3.org>, "public-credentials@w3.org" <public-credentials@w3.org>
*** Annette, your note came just now as I drafted this through a hundred
interruptions this morning, adding to your narrowing down sense here ***

Thank you everyone for this conversation. The credibility problem is a
frustrating one. I'd like to point out why in the hope that I can find
common strands with the thoughtful views already posted and that you might

1. The problem space for applying the word "credibility" seems overblown or
conflated or at least discursive to no end :). There are too many moving
parts in the public communications and media ecosystems around non-factual
aspects that drive behavior. For e.g. culture, values, and sheer power. The
assumption that an empirically operated system will beat a "values"-edged
media that overloads our feeds every day is a problematic one.

First, I like the dictionary meaning of credibility that links to
"eliciting belief". This places it the process of credibility assessment
*upstream* of the act of belief or believing. I am just putting this out
here as my starting point, you folks might believe even this is

So how might we get to a consensus on a number of basic things that help
narrow down the focus areas. Is there a way to list "key use cases" we want
to focus on in the next avatar of this group?

a. What "things" might we assess credibility *for*? And what is the lowest
hanging fruit here?
Credibility for...
1. Just people, i.e. individuals.
2. Individuals and claims in the context of their expertise?
3. Individuals and claims in the context of the power they wield? (title
for e.g.)
4. Individuals and narratives?
5. Journalists only
6. All people wielding some form of structural power (politicians, public
officials, journalists, etc..)

a. For individuals, do we look at journalists and journalism as a unique
area? Journalists, when *reporting*, are primary (first-responder type in
competition with social of course) *relayers* *from, with, and to* the
*public(s)*.  They are relaying claims--they consider *credible and
they presumably checked out, and also making representations,
characterizations, etc. *They are covering developing realities and power
that is exerting itself, often to democratically or undemocratically shape
perceptions (impressionism) and reality itself before the *truth* gets out,
or as it is getting out.

In this context, just attempting to resolve the problem of "credibility
measure for journalists" is already narrow and hard. For instance, within a
moral value system (say liberal or conservative; or multicultural vs
hegemonic), some journalists may always have a 100% true facts and credible
claims rating. But they may, because of value system blind spots (social
psychology and neuroscience attests to this), *leave out facts* that don't
fit their preferred narratives, implicity, unintentionally, or
intentionally. It's very hard to separate facts from values when reporters
make decisions about which facts or quotes or claims to lead a story with,
or frame the headline around and which to leave out. So if we do a
cross-value system examination, it may be inevitable that 100%-cred-rated
journalist may score lower on "stuff left out" that might have otherwise
complicated the narrative, i.e. made it more depictive of the reality,
especially in highlighting voices often left out. So would that make a said
journalist less credible? What is credibility really for? At what layer in
the "facts" to "narratives" journey must wield the C word?

Second, take opinion journalism. This is a different area, where newspaper
editors officially allow persuasion and rhetoric in the language itself and
yet is supposed to be subject to a factual baseline. I.e. when factual
claims are made by an opinion author in a site that calls itself "news",
those claims must stand checking, or be already checked out and hence are
"facts", and the rhetoric or persuasion is accepted in argument, criticism,
and in general the expression used to make a case. This area is narrow,
complex, and still does have low-hanging fruit. For e.g. plenty of "opinion
journalism" during election time runs with claims that *reporting teams in
those very newsrooms won't run in their own stories*. This seems a narrow
enough problem to turn into a signal of some kind.

c. Another way to narrow our problem space down is to consider breaking
news story authors alone. Breaking "facts" as I prefer to call it, and
breaking news is an area where journalistic checks and balances (mixed
record) are running as blindly as algorithmic ranking systems. This is in
the first few minutes to an hour when a story is either about to get
socialized across major newsrooms (news judgments are made and hence
everyone jumps on it) strengthening claim verification processes). Is it a
worthy goal to develop a credibility measure only for authors and their
claims for breaking news?

d. This still does not take away the main challenge. How do we avoid any
top-down or policy design arithmetic here (lists, inclusion in trust.txt
files, socialized inclusion, credibility sphere creation laterally through
organizational-network effects from collapsing back into epistemic bubbles,
if only because one value system (right now it's the conservative movement,
even as there are far-left sites pushing misinformation too) has gone off
the democratic rails and yet has substantial political and hence media
power anyway?

Or *should* we avoid this at all?

The idea that we might find a *"universally" *acceptable means to the end
(credibility measures for journalists) -- even for a narrow subsegment of
the problem space --  assumes there is "one universe" and there just isn't.

There are many particularities to journalism -- because it still remains a
cultural occupation (like art, but with some methods, craft, trades-like
routines) -- as opposed to technically bounded occupations. What I'd like
to avoid happening is this: The news industry conflated "news" and
"journalism" together for too long. Building a successful media enterprise
at any level appears to give the professional elite in the system the
status that "what they do there is journalism", as opposed to clear ethical
separation between product (news) and process (journalism). That problem
may happen in the credibility assessment sphere too -- and these different
views to sort though what to tackle and how, will help prevent it.

On Wed, Jul 21, 2021 at 9:23 PM Bob Wyman <bob@wyman.us> wrote:

> You wrote: "What you're really asking is: what is the tribe/nation state?"
> Sure. A claimed membership in a tribe or nation might be a
> credibility signal for some people, at some times, for some contexts. A
> digital press-pass, issued by some organization might also be a good
> signal. But then, just about any statement made about someone or some
> source of information could usefully inform a credibility assessment.
> I sometimes think that a great deal of the discussion about credibility is
> motivated by a hopeless search for definitive credibility signals when the
> reality is that such things simply don't and can't exist. Just as there is
> not and never will be a universally accepted arbiter of truth, we can't
> expect there to be any single, or even a usefully finite set of arbiters of
> credibility. Each of us has our own set of credibility signals that have
> some specific and potentially unique or at least non-shared meaning or
> weight. Even if a "Digital Press Pass" were to exist, there should be many
> of them made by a variety of different issuers who each have a different
> sense of what it means to be a member of the press.
> It seems to me that the most important thing is not looking for the
> credibility signals themselves, but rather working on the problem of what
> to do with whatever signals may exist and making it possible for even more
> signals to exist. I suggest that it is more important to allow the broadest
> possible range of statements to be made and then to work on how to assess
> and present those signals in such a way that someone can reasonably use
> them to work out issues of credibility. We might find that some part of the
> credibility assessment process can be assisted by or even performed by
> software, but that should be secondary to ensuring that people have the
> information they need to make their own assessments.
> The best answer to the question "Who decides who is in and who is out?" is
> probably "Who cares? Do whatever feels good." The important thing in
> building a curated list is to simply build it. Once built, that list itself
> will be rated, as a result of statements made by others, as to its utility,
> completeness, credibility, or whatever. Some lists will have strict
> standards which are applied consistently. Others will not. In any case, it
> doesn't matter since the proof of a list's utility will come in its use. As
> long as we provide a means for people to make discoverable statements about
> their experience with the list or their assessment of it, the right thing
> can eventually happen.
> For me, and I think for many people, the most compelling information about
> some statements' credibility is probably whether or not I have prior
> experience with its author. Thus, the list of people whose Tweets I follow,
> or have as friends in Facebook, or who I've exchanged email with,
> identifies those about whose credibility I'm most confident. Thus, for me,
> the key question when reading some statement is: "Do I know the author?
> What was my prior experience with them?" I'm only secondarily interested in
> knowing if the author is someone who is trusted by someone I trust. (i.e.
> they are a New York Times reporter, or Pulitzer Prize winners, a friend of
> a friend, or whatever.) Each of us, I think, has our own personal and
> unique set of signals that indicate credibility. No single system or marker
> can serve us all.
> So, yeah, membership in a tribe is a good signal for some folk. But, not
> for all. The important thing is to simply provide an ability to make
> statements about tribal membership or any other attribute of a speaker.
> Having done that, the interesting work can begin.
> bob wyman
> On Wed, Jul 21, 2021 at 7:56 PM Michael Herman (Trusted Digital Web) <
> mwherman@parallelspace.net> wrote:
>> RE: Probably the biggest problem that you can't get around is: Who
>> decides who is in and who is out?
>> What you're really asking is:
>>    - what is the tribe/nation state?
>>    - who are the members of the tribe/nation state?
>>    - how does someone become a member of the tribe (or citizen of a
>>    nation state)?
>>    - how (on what grounds/policies) can membership/citizenship be
>>    revoked?
>> Further reading:
>> https://hyperonomy.com/2021/02/10/is-the-social-evolution-model-harmful/
>> <https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://hyperonomy.com/2021/02/10/is-the-social-evolution-model-harmful/__;!!MLMg-p0Z!TdG5XRG5ItfiD7eLo8hRn4wpERs1Jq-lr6cBA1xUKdN_KnbR5dcToqICCBb5kBc$>
>> Best regards,
>> Michael Herman
>> Far Left Self-Sovereignist
>> Self-Sovereign Blockchain Architect
>> Trusted Digital Web
>> Hyperonomy Digital Identity Lab
>> Parallelspace Corporation

Subramaniam (Subbu) Vincent
Director, Journalism and Media Ethics,
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University
My work
<https://www.scu.edu/ethics/about-the-center/people/subramaniam-vincent/> |
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Received on Friday, 23 July 2021 08:37:49 UTC

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