Facebook reportedly looking at curating news (again)

Facebook’s relationship status with news publishing (fake or otherwise) should be set to “it’s complicated”. The latest wrinkle: it’s going back to handpicking news from favored media partners, including Snapchat.

Business Insider reports that Facebook is working on a new feature with curated news that it’s calling Collections.

Collections will work in a similar fashion to Snapchat’s Discover section: a feature that showcases a curated collection of news stories, listicles, videos, and the best of social networks, magazines and television, all submitted by handpicked media partners.

The curated content from publishers will show up directly in Facebook’s News Feed, people familiar with the project told BI.

Much of the bogus news that Facebook’s pushed has been making its appearance in Trending Topics. The first embarrassment came two days after Facebook, stung by accusations of liberal bias, fired its human editors and turned the task of news curation over to its algorithm.

Humans cleared out their desks on a Friday in July. In short order, a hoax about Fox News “exposing” news anchor and so-called “traitor” Megyn Kelly and kicking her out for backing Hillary Clinton showed up in Trending.

It didn’t stop there. Facebook kept on going, publishing what the Washington Post described as…

…conspiracy theories, old news, fake news – including one story from a site that had “Fakingnews” in its domain name – and was generally slow to pick up on major developing news stories (with the very notable exception of its swift pickup of the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie divorce).

BuzzFeed reported last month that renegade Facebook employees who disagreed with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s dismissal of claims that social media influenced voters – rhetoric he subsequently dialed back – had formed an unofficial task force to study fake news.

Zuck went on to post about seven projects to tweak the site and tune the algorithms that have promoted hoaxes, half-truths and lies.

Those projects:

  • Stronger detection to the systems that spot misinformation before users have to do it themselves.
  • Much easier user reporting.
  • Third-party verification by fact-checking organizations.
  • Possible warnings on stories flagged by those fact-checkers or the Facebook community.
  • Raising the bar for what stories appear in “related articles” in the News Feed.
  • Cutting off the money flow: “A lot of misinformation is driven by financially motivated spam. We’re looking into disrupting the economics with ads policies like the one we announced earlier this week, and better ad farm detection,” Zuckerberg said.
  • More input from news professionals, to better understand their fact-checking systems.

And now, there’s Collections. Business Insider’s sources say that Facebook has approached media and entertainment companies to create content for the new feature, but it hasn’t set a date for when it will be released.

Facebook’s told those companies that the content will be injected directly into News Feed, enabling them to leapfrog the need to garner likes on their own or to pay for sponsored posts.

And that will be a big, big leap: it should give publishers much broader access to an estimated 1.8 billion Facebook users.

We don’t know yet whether the new curated News Feed content will feature ads, nor how much data on users that it plans to share with publishers, but we do know that Facebook has all it needs to deliver extremely targeted advertising.

At any rate, this isn’t Facebook’s first foray into curating content from publishers. As BI notes, it came out with a breaking news app called Notify.

That’s the one it shuttered in June, after Trending news came under fire for purportedly suppressing conservative news items.

What will save the new curated news section from suffering the same fate as the old curated news section? If anything?

We’ll have to wait and see. It hasn’t even breathed air yet, but it could be born with a target on its back.