Facebook is replacing its user-generated "trending news" feature with a "breaking news" section - comprised of 80 publications which they will feed to users.
In other words, Facebook will have complete control over narratives and topics which go against their internal corporate culture.
Facebook's Trending News section has been the subject of intense scrutiny since the 2016 election after it was revealed that the editors in charge of the feature were repeatedly discriminating against conservative articles, while promoting progressive content. Their clear bias resulted in the threat of an investigation from the Senate commerce committee.
The new changes were explained in a Friday announcement:
- Breaking News Label: A test we’re running with 80 publishers across North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia lets publishers put a “breaking news” indicator on their posts in News Feed. We’re also testing breaking news notifications.
- Today In: We’re testing a dedicated section on Facebook called Today In that connects people to the latest breaking and important news from local publishers in their city, as well as updates from local officials and organizations.
- News Video in Watch: We will soon have a dedicated section on Facebook Watch in the US where people can view live coverage, daily news briefings and weekly deep dives that are exclusive to Watch.
The obvious takeaway here is that Facebook wants to control the conversation. Who believes that the news orgs they choose will be fair and balanced? No one. Instead of seeing what is naturally igniting dialogue around issues you're going to get Facebook approved propaganda.— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) June 1, 2018
To recap - you're going from user controlled trends that honestly represent the conversation, views and dialogue of users to Facebook approved outlets TELLING you what you need to hear. They will only share the most sanitized positions that suit their biases.— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) June 1, 2018
Make no mistake: This is entirely driven by political aims. Facebook is VERY unhappy with how their platform drove conversation during the 2016 election. This is their attempt to slow the spread of information and political views they don't like on their platform.— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) June 1, 2018
Who's curating the approved local publishers, news orgs, local officials and organizations? Certainly not a politically neutral or unbiased team and certainly not representative of our country. This is a propaganda op to control and do the work of their preferred political party.— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) June 1, 2018
While the Washington Post, Recode, The Verge, and Vox have confirmed they're among the 80 "breaking news" publications, no other publishers names have been revealed.
We imagine Shareblue, Media Matters, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti Defamation League are all included.