In light of the fact that Facebook has been encountering increased criticism and greater scrutiny or the role it plays in disseminating news and fake news, the platform is now looking at ways to change its methodology. Facebook has been searching for ways to make sure that higher-quality and more accurate information is dispensed, rather than opinionated news which only serves to divide factions of consumers. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has decided that one way this could be accomplished is to install a dedicated news tab which would feature content from trusted, high-quality sources.
Impact of a dedicated news tab
According to Zuckerberg, the point of such a move would be to ensure that Facebook users who want to get more legitimate news will have the opportunity to do that. In the current News Feed, users make use of the service to obtain updates on the day-to-day lives of their friends, as well as to connect with them. In the same way that users now make use of Facebook Watch for extra video, this new dedicated news tab could provide additional high-quality news for those seeking it.
This may create an issue for publishers, who are concerned about retaining control over their own news content, as well as their continued connection with their base audience, so that revenue share is not reduced. Publishers have had the same issue with Facebook in the past, and it has never really been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. Zuckerberg has gone out of his way to assure publishers that Facebook will be very willing to work with them on achieving an equitable solution for all. However, it seems very likely that a new initiative like this would decrease the volume of news being distributed in News Feed, in order to provide a higher volume of news through the new dedicated news tab.
In an apparently related initiative, Facebook has also announced that some news-based programs currently available through Watch for News will be discontinued. While this seems to be an indication that users have not shown sufficient interest in video news content, it is not seen as a deterrent to starting up the new dedicated news tab. It does however, mean that it is likely that other steps must be taken in order to generate more interest in the dedicated news tab.
What constitutes trusted news?
A central question behind this dedicated news tab from Facebook is related to what exactly constitutes trusted news sources. There has been an enormous media discussion about fake news being disseminated in this country, causing many publishers to invest more resources in securing accurate, high quality content. Facebook has no intention of becoming an arbitrator in this ongoing discussion, and would prefer to simply work with relevant authorities to decide exactly which sources should be considered high quality trusted news outlets.
This in itself is expected to be a significant project, fraught with tons of debate and discussion, given the fact that Facebook would likely be directing increased traffic to such outlets. As a preliminary measure, Facebook intends to start up a public consultation process which will have input to its oversight board to help with the decision-making process. At least some of these decisions would relate to news content, and that would take much of the pressure off Facebook itself for deciding which news outlets should be considered acceptable and which should not.
What the new tab may look like
If Facebook decides to adopt the same approach as it did with Watch for News, the dedicated news tab under consideration will probably look much different than the current News Feed. It probably will not be anything splashy and will not emphasize presentation very much, and instead will focus more on attracting users to the new stream of news. One possibility is that Facebook will refer all Pages displayed under the category tag of Media/News Company to the new dedicated news tab, while also removing distribution completely from the main feed.
This attempt to guide users over to the alternate news feed would motivate publishers to promote the new feed and proactively guide their own users over to it. Facebook would probably then implement some degree of editorial control which would be centered around some kind of trustworthiness score for the purpose of determining where specific publisher content should be displayed. This will undoubtedly trigger some strong discussion and debate, particularly by those news sources deem to be less trusted. Assuming that does happen, it will automatically make the new dedicated news tab a much bigger focal point among all users and publishers, and could serve to popularize the news feed.
Importance of social media news
One of the reasons this can have such a huge impact on Facebook users is that news is such a powerful component of the total Facebook experience. A study conducted by Pew Research has shown that approximately two thirds of all American users derive at least some level of news content by going online and consulting the social media. Among the social media platforms, Facebook is by far the most popular choice for users, leading the way at 43%, with its nearest competitor, YouTube, providing news for less than half that percentage of users.
In the past, Facebook has been a significant agent of division with its News Feed algorithm, especially considering how it has driven certain news content to selected users. This practice served to reinforce establish opinions while eliminating others from the discussion entirely. No one has benefited by this, but it has instead spawned an increasing debate and furor over the quality of news being distributed, and the reliability of sources. In that context, it’s great that Facebook is now considering a vehicle for correcting the situation, and establishing reliable and trustworthy news sources for the dispensing of news content. While this new dedicated news tab may not provide the final solution on the matter, it would seem to at least be a step in the right direction.