This article was published on January 16, 2018

Facebook gave up on news too soon, for no good reason

Facebook gave up on news too soon, for no good reason

Facebook recently announced a major change to its News Feed: Namely, that it was shifting away from brand and news posts and prioritizing what your friends and groups post.

This comes after Facebook spent several months being raked across the coals for its inability to police its fake news and propaganda– so it comes across as Facebook not fixing its own problems so much as giving up and excising the symptom completely. Even if Zuckerberg says he wants to bring Facebook back to its roots, it’s also a reaction to outside criticism, one that won’t necessarily fix Facebook’s news problems.

In an interview with Axios last October, Sheryl Sandberg insisted Facebook was “not a media company,” in that it didn’t have any journalists on staff. But that’s not all that makes a media company, and Facebook’s deflection rings a bit hollow considering a Pew study published just a month earlier says that a very large chunk of Americans are at least somewhat reliant on social media for news — 45 percent from Facebook specifically.

Since that’s the case, it’s a little high-handed to de-prioritize news. Imagine if 45 percent of American adults relied on Facebook for entertainment. Then, say some of them watched a documentary that fudged its facts, and made people believe things that weren’t true. And in response to criticism saying the company should do more to ensure the veracity of its content, the company decided to hide its entertainment section and said it was to ensure users were focusing on the more “important” task of bonding with family and friends. Not only does that sound condescending, it’s also an overreaction.

I highly doubt this is actually going to eliminate any of the news problems on Facebook. There will still be news stories of questionable veracity, only it’ll be your friends sharing them rather than brands or news pages. All this change will do is shift the burden of away from Facebook.

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