Facebook News Makes Its Debut in the Battle Against Misinformation

Posted on the 25 October 2019 by Anees @ZulfiqarAAnees

Facebook said Friday, October 25, that it is testing a tab to display curated news, a move that could help the social network show more credible media while struggling to reduce the spread of erroneous information within its network.

Under the name of Facebook News, the product will initially have around 200,000 users in the United States. A team of journalists will select the stories, and users will be able to customize the type of news they want to receive according to their interests and their subscriptions paid to the media. Facebook News users can also hide media, articles, or topics they don’t want to see.

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The separation of news in a new tab makes a difference in how Facebook used to display articles within the user’s account, where news articles were mixed with photos and videos of friends and family. The use of humans to select and send news makes the company less dependent on algorithms. This practice was criticized under the premise that the media that publish false information and altered videos could take advantage and use the Facebook algorithm in their favor.

“We have to make progress before we can rely on technology to provide quality news information,” said Campbell Brown, vice president of the global news association with Mona Sarantakos, product manager for Facebook News in a blog post on Facebook.

Users will also continue to watch news articles within the news section, also known as a news feed.

The new tab comes at the moment when Facebook and other social networks, including Twitter and LinkedIn, are placed as news consumption media.

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One in five American adults gets their news through social networks, surpassing print newspapers, according to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center. However, last year, Facebook changed the news section so that users could see more content from family and friends than news articles or brand publications. The company also continues the battle against misinformation and statements about censorship of conservative discourse, which Facebook has denied.

Facebook and news organizations have a tense relationship because they both compete to generate money, making the media distrust social media dependence to gain traffic for their stories. Facebook did not name what media will be associated with Facebook News. However, a person familiar with the issue said that The Washington Post, Bloomberg, BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, Bloomberg, Hearst Newspapers, McClatchy, and the Los Angeles Times are some of the participating media. Facebook will pay some posts that provide a stable amount of original content; the person in question said.

The social network declined a request for comments to know the terms of the agreement.

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Facebook has also faced criticism about its associations with external data verifiers, as it has been indicated that they are not rigorous enough to combat erroneous information that goes viral within Facebook.

For example, the company does not send political speeches to data verifiers, a policy that was heavily criticized by Democrats. If a post is classified as false by a data verifier, Facebook will not delete it but will give it less dissemination within the news section.

Users can find the news tab in the same place where Facebook Watch or Marketplace is. The company said the news would be divided into general, thematic, diversity, and local. The media must meet certain criteria in order to appear on the news tab, as well as comply with its rules against hate speech, violence, and other offensive content.

As part of the test, the company will show media news from major US cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington DC Facebook will also show local news in the ‘Today In’ section in the coming months.

Facebook, which competes with Apple and Google in the news item, has faced challenges with the media and journalists. In 2015, Facebook launched Instant Articles, a tool for the media to publish articles on the social platform without users leaving the site. Many media abandoned that format, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.

Facebook also used to show “trends” on its site, but the company removed the controversial section in 2018 after being active for four years. The section showed false news and conspiracy theories, and there were also allegations that the workers suppressed conservative news within that section, but Facebook rejected these claims.

The company has not yet said when it plans to launch Facebook News worldwide.

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