Facebook and the press haven’t had the steadiest relationship of late. With ‘fake news’ dominating headlines and politics both in the US and UK, Facebook has come under fire for its role as mediator of information shared on the platform.
As a result, the giant social networking app has been forced to build some bridges; either that or face an even harsher backlash from both the public and reputable news providers.
‘Fake news’ has been a dominant theme in journalism recently, overshadowing the run up to the American presidential election. One of the easiest ways for fake news to be spread is through social media, as the coupling of shocking headlines and sharing features can allow it to easily spread across people’s timelines.
One of the main culprits for sharing these articles was Facebook, and in December, CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the outrage in a Facebook status in which he commented; “I recognize a greater responsibility than just building technology that information flows through”. The status went on to outline how Facebook would make changes to combat the spreading of fake news on its site.
The main change will be the ability for Facebook users to ‘flag’ a story to dispute the accuracy of its contents. The story will then be vetted by ‘third parties’ and if “the fact checkers agree a story is a hoax, you’ll see a flag on the story saying it has been disputed”.
Zuckerberg went on to say, “we have a new kind of responsibility to enable people to have the most meaningful conversations, and to build a space where people can be informed”.
The Facebook Journalism Project
More recently Facebook made further steps to repair its relationship with reliable journalism and its readers by launching the Facebook Journalism Project.
The project was revealed on 11th January this year and proceeded the company’s announcement of appointing former TV news journalist, Campbell Brown, as leader of its news partnership team.
Some of the most notable changes that will be coming with the Facebook Journalism Project include;
- Digests (Instant Articles packages)
- Promotion of news literacy
- Subscription to CrowdTangle
- Training for local news teams on Facebook’s services for journalists
Some of the most important for publishers are subscriptions and digests, as while the introduction of Instant Articles allowed readers to easily consume content, and be more likely to stay on the page, it also took away aspects of the publishers’ identity as the same format was imposed on every article despite the origin of the content.
To pacify some publishers, Facebook announced that part of the project will be the inclusion of subscription buttons at the bottom of the article. There will also be the inclusion of digests, where users can sign up to be notified of stories of a particular theme or from a certain publisher.
And for journalists who share posts from their personal user profile, they will be able to see some very basic analytics on these posts in order to track and improve their performance on Facebook – similar to Facebook Insights that are used for pages.
While some claim the project is nothing more than a PR trick to get back in journalists’ good books, there are others who believe the project is intended to make genuine changes to the platform in regards to its attitude towards false information.
What do you think about Facebook’s new journalism features? Are they a genuine attempt to engage Facebook users with genuine journalism, or simply a compulsory reaction to the fake news scandal? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!