Commentary

Facebook's News Feed Change Won't Quell Critics

Facebook this week announced a change to its News Feed, the central place on the social network that shows posts from friends, groups and publishers that users follow. The changes are unlikely to quell critics that have inspired a growing advertiser boycott against Facebook that officially starts today.

The company updated the ranking of stories in its News Feed to prioritize original and clearly sourced news. (This is separate from the recently expanded Facebook News section that consists of curated articles from media outlets.) That means its algorithms will ferret through aggregated stories to find those cited as the original source.

"When multiple stories are shared by publishers and are available in a person’s News Feed, we will boost the more original one which will help it get more distribution," Campbell Brown, vice president of global news partnerships, and Jon Levin, product manager at Facebook, said in a blog post.

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Stories that don't have bylines will be demoted, along with publishers that don't list the names of their editorial staffers on their websites, they said.

Considering that most legitimate publishers already follow practices to make their reporting methods more transparent, Facebook's changes aren't likely to affect them. The original sources of news may get a lift in web traffic, as Facebook acknowledges, but that's about it.

The changes also don't really address some of the key complaints of the "Stop Hate for Profit"movement backed by the Anti-Defamation League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Sleeping Giants. In urging marketers to stop advertising on Facebook, the civil-rights groups are asking the social network to crack down on fringe groups, not mainstream publishers.

The only publishers they mention are Breitbart News and The Daily Caller, blasting the conservative sites for "having records of working with known white nationalists." However, the "Stop Hate for Profit" movement stops short of asking Facebook to remove the sites, and doesn't provide examples of their allegedly objectionable content. 

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