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.
- 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.
7 comments on “Facebook reportedly looking at curating news (again)”
I find this topic silly. First, when I was young, “Fake News” was known as “National Enquirer”. So it’s not a new thing. Second, the idea that “fake news” influenced the election is, in and of itself, fake news. No verifiable proof has been offered to support the claim. No one has been interviewed who said they changed their vote after reading a fake news story. Finally, regardless of implementation, entrusting the definition of “real” and “fake” to any entity carried with it the likelihood of massive abuse. And as a P.S., since when did Facebook become a valid news source?
I think they’re TRYING to become a valid news source. The mainstream media is dying quickly due to their own problems with trustworthiness. I think FB is trying to fill that niche.
FB has too much power now to be trusted international source for news. They seem to be out of control.
Facebook ITSELF may not strictly be a valid news source, but people see what it provides and displays as “Now trending” … a lot of people assume that this means (especially since previously it HAD been curated, if people even noticed) that it’s a valid story. These articles are linked to other sites, and a lot of people see them and never stop to wonder about the source itself. Critical thinking is something we need a lot more of, unfortunately; I wish it wasn’t often in such short supply.
The difference between fake news online and the National Enquirer is that 44% of the general population in the U.S. doesn’t get their news from the Enquirer. 66% of Facebook users get their news there.
While I’m not aware of a study that tries to quantify how fake news solidified voters support for a candidate, there is research on Russia’s campaigns to undermine American politics by spreading fake news. I can attest that it was anecdotally more difficult during this election to hold a productive debate with people who cited fake news sources to back their positions.
News editorial can obviously slant, but there can at least be a baseline check of facts.
But there is the problem of who is conducting the baseline check. Snopes is obviously biased (and by their own admission to boot). Wikipedia is such a laughable source that using it to prove a position only proves the person has no position. The MSM loudly trumpeted their disdain for half the American Population, and has doubled down since the election. Who are The Watchers, and who will watch The Watchers?
Eric is correct – critical thinking skills are the answer. They teach you HOW to think. This narrative of fake news is only concerned with telling people WHAT to think.
And ironic how red-baiting McCarthyism is enjoying a resurgence by the same people who condemned it decades ago.
I agree on Snopes. Wikipedia can be useful if one uses critical thinking skills and examines the citations. I wouldn’t say that the MSM disdains half of America.
I completely agree that people in general could use better critical thinking skills. However, I still appreciate consistent editorial by various outlets so I don’t have to spend so much energy thinking about fake news.
P.S. Since this blog strips out links from comments, the stats in my first paragraph are from Pew Research, “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016” by Gottfried and Shearer. The second paragraph cited The Washington Post, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” by Timberg. The Post article links to two studies that examined sources of fake news during the election.