Facebook ‘News’ Tab on Mobile App

Facebook has launched the ‘News’ tab on its mobile app which directs users to unbiased, curated articles from credible sources in a bid to publicly combat fake news and help restore trust in its own brand.

Large US Cities For Now

The ‘News’ tab on the Facebook mobile app, which will initially only be available to an estimated 200,000 people in select, large US cities, is expected by Facebook to become so popular that it could attract millions of users.

What?

The News tab will attempt to show users stories from local publishers as well as the big national news sources. The full list of publishers who will contribute to the News tab stories has not yet been confirmed, although online speculation points to the likes of (U.S. publishers initially) Time, The Washington Post, CBS News, Bloomberg, Fox News and Politico. It has not yet been announced when the service will be available to UK Facebook users. It has been reported that Facebook is also prepared to pay many millions for some of the content included in the tab.

Why?

Facebook has been working hard to restore some of the trust lost in the company when it was found to be the medium by which influential fake news stories were distributed during the UK Brexit referendum, the 2017 UK general election, and the U.S. presidential election. There is also the not-so-small matter of 50 million Facebook profiles being shared/harvested (in conjunction with Cambridge Analytica) back 2014 in order to build a software program that was used to predict and generate personalised political adverts to influence choices at the ballot box in the last U.S. election.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was made to appear before the U.S. Congress in April to talk about how Facebook is tackling false reports, and even recently a video that was shared via Facebook (which had 4 million views before being taken down) falsely suggested that smart meters emit radiation levels that are harmful to health. The information in the video was believed by many even though it was false.

Helping Smaller Publishers Too

Also, Facebook acknowledges that smaller news outlets have struggled to gain exposure with its algorithms, and that there is an opportunity to deliver more local news, personalised news experiences, and more modern digital-age, independent news. It is also likely that, knowing that young people get most of their news from online sources but have been moving away to other platforms, this could be a good way for Facebook to retain younger users.

Working With Fact-Checkers

Back in January, for example, Facebook tried to help restore trust in its brand and publicly show that it was trying to combat fake news by announcing that it was working with London-based, registered charity ‘Full Fact’ who would be reviewing stories, images and videos, in an attempt to tackle misinformation that could “damage people's health or safety or undermine democratic processes”.

Personalisation

The News tab will also allow users to see a personalised selection of articles, the choice of which is based upon the news they read. This personalisation will also include the ability to hide articles, topics and publishers that users choose not to see.

The Human Element

One of the key aspects of the News tab service that Facebook sees as adding value, keeping quality standards high, and providing a further safeguard against fake news is that many stories will be reviewed and chosen by experienced journalists acting as impartial and independent curators. For example, Facebook says that “Unlike Google News, which is controlled by algorithms, Facebook News works more like Apple News, with human editors making decisions.”

Not The First Time

This is not the first time that Facebook has tried offering a news section, and it will hopefully be more successful and well-received than the ‘Trending News’ section that was criticised for bias in the 2016 presidential election and has since been phased out.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Only last week, Mark Zuckerberg found himself in front of the U.S. Congress answering questions about whether Facebook can be trusted to run a new cryptocurrency, and it is clear that the erosion of trust caused by how Facebook shared user data with Cambridge Analytica and how the platform was used to spread fake news in the U.S. election have cast a long shadow over the company. Facebook has since tried many ways to regain trust e.g. working with fact-checkers, adding the ‘Why am I seeing this post?’ tool, and launching new rules for political ad transparency.

Users of social networks clearly don’t want to see fake news, the influences of which can have a damaging knock-on effect on the economic and trade environment which, in turn, affects businesses.

The launch of this News service with its human curation and fact-checking could, therefore, help Facebook kill several birds with one stone. For example, as well as going some way to helping to restore trust, it could increase the credibility of Facebook as a go-to trusted source of quality content, enable Facebook to compete with its rivals e.g. Google News, show Facebook to be a company that also cares about smaller news publishers, and act as a means to help retain younger users on its platform.

Posted by Andrew Sewell,

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