Facebook to prioritise original news reporting

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 1 July 2020

Facebook is changing the way it ranks content in its news feed to prioritise original reporting after feedback from publishers.

The changes to its algorithm, which apply only to news content, will look at articles on a particular topic to identify the ones most often cited as the original source. These articles will then be boosted to increase their reach to Facebook users.

Publishers which invest in journalism have complained for years about having their reporting copied by other outlets, losing potential advertising revenue as a result.

The move will also help fight misinformation as global brands join an advertising boycott against Facebook, and other social media platforms, to urge it to take more action on misinformation and hate speech.

In a blog post announcing the algorithm change, by the company’s VP of global news partnerships Campbell Brown and product manager Jon Levin, the ad boycott isn’t mentioned, instead the pair say the update comes after consultation with media organisations and 20 global media experts.

“Most of the news stories people see in News Feed are from sources they or their friends follow, and that won’t change,” the blog says.

“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. Defining original reporting and the standards for it are complex, so we will continue to work with publishers and academics to refine this approach over time.”

Facebook will apply the new ranking to English news first with plans to expand it to other languages in the future.

The social media giant is also looking at improving the transparency of authors by demoting news content that doesn't have transparent information about the publisher’s editorial staff. It says it will review articles for bylines or staff pages to establish credibility and reduce content with “clickbait or ad farms”.

“We recognise that in some areas, transparency can put journalists at risk so we are only doing this in limited markets to start, taking into account the press environment in which publishers operate,” the company says.

Earlier this week Facebook also announced moves to curb hate speech and misinformation, such as banning ads that suggest immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers are “inferior” or express contempt, dismissal or disgust directed at them.

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