Facebook Manipulates What News It Shows, Just in Time for the Election

July 1st, 2020 2:52 PM

Facebook is radically changing the news that is most likely to pop up across Americans’ News Feeds, just in time to have a huge impact on the upcoming election. 

Facebook’s Newsroom announced in a June 30 blog: “Today, we’re updating the way news stories are ranked in News Feed to prioritize original reporting and stories with transparent authorship.” Facebook stated that its new policy around transparent authorship will actively restrict anonymous posts going forward:

“We are also starting to demote news content that does not have transparent information about the publisher’s editorial staff. We will review news articles for bylines or a staff page on the publisher’s website that lists the first and last names of reporters or other editorial staff.”

Facebook explained its rationale for the policy update, suggesting that, “We’ve found that publishers who do not include this information often lack credibility to readers and produce content with clickbait or ad farms, all content people tell us they don’t want to see on Facebook.”

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has openly acknowledged his platform’s influence on the political process, which is truly epic. “[W]e expect more than 160 million people in the United States will see authoritative information on Facebook about how to vote in the general election from July through November,” stated Zuckerberg. What he meant by “how to vote” remains unclear. 

That said, Facebook acknowledged that this policy of deboosting anonymous authors can be problematic, and wrote: “We recognize 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.” 

This begs the question as to whether Facebook will respect the anonymity of journalists using pen names to avoid not just government, but being targeted by cancel culture or violent left-wing activists.

“Facebook says that in order to identify which original stories to promote, it will use artificial intelligence to analyze groups of articles on a particular story topic and identify the ones most often cited as the original source,” Axios wrote June 30. 

Facebook’s use of AI to attempt to link to original sources has come under some scrutiny.

SearchEngineJournal observed the problematic implications of an algorithm deciding that the most shared article tends to be the original source of the story itself:

There are flaws in this approach that immediately come to mind. For example, it’s not uncommon for an original story from a small publisher to get picked up by a larger website.

In those instances, reporters may end up linking to the larger publisher more frequently because it’s more well known.

By Facebook’s standards the article from the big publisher would be seen as the original, despite that not being the case.

Axios suggested that Facebook’s news story overhaul “won't change the News Feed experience dramatically for most users, because Facebook will still only showcase stories from news outlets that they or their friends follow.”

Conservatives are under attack. Contact Facebook headquarters at 1-650-308-7300 or 1-650-543-4800 and demand that the platform provide transparency: Companies need to design open systems so that they can be held accountable, while giving weight to privacy concerns. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.