Can Facebook News grab viewers from other publishers amid allegations of fake political ads?
Facebook recently rolled out a news section on its website, which chief executive Mark Zuckerberg described as “a dedicated place in the app that is focused on high- quality journalism.”
The news tab’ rollout comes at a time when several experts and activists are still fuming over Zuckerberg publicly admitting that people, and not tech companies, are responsible for recognising fake news. The company recently rescinded its policy that banned false claims in political advertisements.
But how does Facebook news compare with Google News and Twitter?
Google News currently has several million visitors every day, with each user spending close to six minutes on the platform. Social media giant Twitter’s popularity also hinges on controversial political tweets and news articles.
Zuckerberg predicts that close to 30 million people will use Facebook News. The service is currently only available to a few areas in the US.
One of the biggest challenges for news services is how algorithms are built and deployed to avoid fake news and provide relevant content to its users.
While most news sites, including Google, use algorithms to identify important news, other sites rely on the popularity of the article. The system, however, can be tricked via search engine optimisation methods.
Facebook argues that it will counter the pitfalls of an algorithm-based news dissemination service by a team of journalists. The team’s job will be to monitor the content and choose the news articles that go into the website.
At least 200 news outlets are aboard Facebook’s news tab, the major ones being the New York Times and The Washington Post. One of the most controversial additions to the list, however, is the right-wing Breitbart News, a white nationalist website that is well known for propagating conspiracy theories.
Many journalists spoke out against Breitbart News’s inclusion on the platform, with the website the Verge terming Facebook’s initiative as “trying to build trust with one hand, and chipping away at it with the other.”
Facebook also plans to pay publishers for some of the content on the site. News websites might receive $3 million for copyrights to headlines and article previews, reports the Wall Street Journal. Google News and Twitter currently do not pay any publisher or individual to license any news items.
While Facebook has laid out publisher guidelines, including integrity signals in determining misinformation, clickbait engagement bait and others, only time will tell how popular Facebook’s News tab will become amid the outcry against the social media giant.