Over the past year, News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch and BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti called on Facebook to offer trusted publishers a carrier fee, much like those used by cable providers.
These calls came as Facebook was mired in another round of fake-news controversy — and as the tech company decided it would de-prioritze all news content, rather than try to clean up its much-maligned newsfeed.
Since then, a new algorithm that delivers less news to a user’s feed has resulted in shuttered outlets. The company has continued to trip over how to best deliver news and other content to its users.
Earlier this week, during Off the Record, an annual gathering that brings together members of the journalism and media spheres, hosted by The Information, Quartz and BuzzFeed, Zuckerberg was again asked whether Facebook might pay trusted news outlets.
His reply: “I’m not sure that makes sense.”
Rather, the company proposed users vote on which news outlets are the most trusted, according to HuffPost. Then, the platform will deliver news from those outlets deemed the most trustworthy. That allows Facebook to double down on its degradation of the news across its platform and pass the buck to users.
Facebook’s cowardice in standing up for serious, trusted journalism, leaving news rankings to users already packed into social and geographical bubbles, is another mark in what is becoming a long tally of hits.
The Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance penned a piece in response to the Off the Record meeting titled “Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Understand Journalism,” with the subhead: “Either that, or he doesn’t care.”
Evidence points to the latter.
As a figurehead, Zuckerberg loves to talk about how important journalism is and how much he cares about ridding the system of fake information. Yet the company’s actions have done nothing to help create a better informed public or struggling news outlets that rely heavily on traffic coming from the platform. Worse, the company hasn't taken a true stand against fake news.
“According to Zuckerberg, the way you find common ground — a common set of facts — is not through professional news outlets, but via individuals,” LaFrance noted in her story.
That's a bad stance for Facebook — and an ominous sign for journalism.