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As Facebook changes its News Feed, advertisers see video ambitions

24 January 2018

On Friday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the site will begin surveying users to determine "trustworthy, informative and local" news sources to highlight on news feeds. Many are critical of Facebook's power to determine the worthiness of content and to hand-select what it deems "reputable publishers", especially as it relates to the political sphere, which could be reflective of the company's political biases rather than a true democracy of opinions.

Facebook's theory - yet to be tested on a large scale - is that while there are many partisan outlets that have readers that trust them, there is a smaller subset of media companies that a majority people find "broadly trustworthy", whatever their particular leanings.

"There's too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today", he wrote.

There are good reasons to believe that Facebook's recent News Feed changes not only won't fix the problem of "fake news", but could actually make it worse instead of better.

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As a former Facebook product managerput it during the 2016 election: "Sadly, News Feed optimizes for engagement [and] as we've learned in this election, bullshit is highly engaging".

To elaborate, Facebook's Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri explained in a blog post, "Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we'll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses". Other social media sites like Twitter have also been on the spot for not doing much to prevent misinformation and fake news on their platforms. Facebook shows you the most popular by default. The decision, Zuckerberg hopes, will make sure "the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent". "You're also seeing news articles shared by friends which may come from sources that the user themselves does not trust", he said. Serious news sites saw engagement fall by nearly 40 percent, while fake news sites fell less than 30 percent. "But it would have to be robust enough so that all users - including media outlets - could be confident that the system wasn't being abused", says News Associates' Head of Journalism, Andrew Greaves. "It will only shift the balance of news you see towards sources that are determined to be trusted by the community", Zuckerberg said.

You see, we live in a world full of people who are sure they're right, and everyone else is wrong. "When it comes to 'fake news, ' that's often how fake news spreads".

According to Piers North, group digital director for Trinity Mirror, it is still not entirely clear what exactly the changes will mean for news publishers or indeed exactly what shape they will take. News sources that consistently get low ratings by users will be penalized, in ways that are not yet known. Facebook has also recently announced to run a survey in its News Feed, where it will ask some questions about whether you think a certain publication is trustworthy or not.

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"It's obvious that the days of getting exposure as a business on Facebook are coming to an end", said Michael Stelzner, the CEO of social media marketing company Social Media Examiner. Facebook thought putting "disputed" flags on fake news stories would help out, but people only clicked more.

People already share sources they trust. He says, "What we're going to try and do is better identify and value meaningful social interactions between people".

According to a post on Zuckerberg's Facebook page, the social media platform will "will now ask people whether they're familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source" in its quality surveys.

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As Facebook changes its News Feed, advertisers see video ambitions