Facebook will be ranking its News Feed based on outlets that a group of users selected as “trustworthy” with the aim to improve the service. The change is in response to criticism for spreading misinformation.
The algorithm that selects news to show on the News Feed will be adjusted to reflect news that users consider trustworthy, informative, and/or relevant to a local community, the company explained in a blog post.
“As part of our ongoing quality surveys, we will now ask people whether they’re familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source,” Mark Zuckerberg said.
But how can users trust that the surveyed people can distinguish a genuinely trustworthy news source from one that just mirrors their political beliefs? The post cited Zuckerberg on the details:
“The idea is that some news organizations are only trusted by their readers or watchers, and others are broadly trusted across society even by those who don’t follow them directly. (We eliminate from the sample those who aren’t familiar with a source, so the output ratio of those who trust the source to those who are familiar with it.)”
Zuckerberg also stated that “this update will not change the amount of news you see on Facebook” as it rather ranks what is there so that the most trusted sources are in a better position to be seen.
The point of ranking is to prioritize. Because Facebook handles a staggering amount of information every day, the prioritization aims to prevent the amplification of misinformation.
“There’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today,” Zuckerberg said. “It’s important that News Feed promotes high quality news that helps build a sense of common ground.”
Facebook’s effort to resist enforcing a corporate opinion on what people should consume news-wise is commendable and an interesting response to misinformation criticism. The people complained, so Facebook will literally give them what they want.
Unfortunately, the result is based on the polled group’s perceptions and not straight reality. If the polled people are objective then the news feed will feature trustworthy sources on either side of the spectrum. If people’s perceptions are inaccurate, then relevant information may be pushed into obscurity, which raises concerns.
Many organizations are stakeholders in Facebook’s decision because they use Facebook as a marketing platform and to communicate with consumers. Some are already adapting and others are tweeting new tips and strategies to stay on top of the change.
Are you prepared for the changes coming to the Facebook News Feed?
— HoneyBook (@honeybook) January 12, 2018
Some organizations reprimanded Facebook. The San Francisco Chronicle published one such criticism:
“Simply put: You’re making the country’s absolutism worse and abdicating your responsibility to improve public discourse. Facebook likes to say it’s a creative company. Surely there is a more creative solution.”
They also admonished Facebook for threatening smaller publications:
“This isn’t an academic point. The San Francisco Chronicle won’t go out of business because of this decision. But smaller publications very likely could, and virtually all news organizations will lose money that pays for reportage. Efforts to band news organizations together to address this could violate antitrust laws, so many of us feel helpless. We might speak to Facebook’s middle managers on a regular basis, but they’re starting to seem pretty ineffectual.”
This makes it seem as though Facebook is only interested in pleasing the masses and big players in media (who have the support of the masses). Will Facebook pull though and successfully implement the plan to prioritize the News Feed?
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