According to a 2016 poll conducted by Pew and the Knight Foundation, an astonishing 44% of the population reportedly accesses its news on Facebook. In turn, news organizations came to rely on the platform as an outlet for attracting new audiences and serving current readers and maintaining revenue.
Since the start of 2018, the social media giant has announced not one, but two new changes to its much-disputed news feed that threaten to throw media and journalism into further turmoil.
First, the company introduced a plan that would prioritize posts from friends and family. It anticipates that 4% rather than 5% of a user’s personal feed will be made up of news stories.
Then, late last week, Facebook said it would allow the platform’s community to judge which news outlets were the most reliable, thus allowing users who already exist in political and media bubbles to further insulate themselves and potentially spread fake stories like the ones posted during the 2016 election.
The company will not release the reliability rankings to the public, but will use them to prioritize content from those outlets.
In a statement on Monday, New Corp. executive chairman Rupert Murdoch weighed in on the platform’s controversial plan, in turn blasting the algorithms Facebook and Google have each adopted to popularize “scurrilous news sources.”
Murdoch stated: “Recognition of a problem is one step on the pathway to cure, but the remedial measures that both companies have so far proposed are inadequate, commercially, socially and journalistically.”
Rather than adjusting news feeds and search algorithms, Murdoch argues Facebook should reward publishers that are already recognized as trusted sources of journalism with carriage fees, much like those used by cable companies.
Murdoch’s proposal addresses two of the issues that surfaced from Facebook’s changes, sending publishers into a frenzy. What it will mean for quality journalism and a company’s bottom line?
Facebook has been wary to present itself as anything but a community platform, refusing to crackdown on the spread of fake news — or back peddling when it has taken a step to do so.
But the more the company struggles to redefine how the information spread on its platform translates into public opinion, the more urgent the issues become.