The spread of fake news hurts everyone, but local news publishers have been particularly troubled by the growing presence of hoax websites. Facebook’s policy changes to combat misinformation on the social network are designed to change the way consumers evaluate what they read online and hopefully give local publishers the leg up they’ve been looking for.
Before digging into Facebook’s policy changes, and how those changes will impact local publishers, let’s take a look at how we got here.
Fake news has all but taken over Facebook’s News Feed, with its algorithm seeming to favor the kind of salacious stories that just aren’t true. But the time people spend reading, and potentially sharing, false stories is time they aren’t spending reading legitimate articles from real news sources. The spread of inaccurate information has also generated a greater need for publishers to create viral content, the kind that legitimate publishers can’t be expected to churn out on a daily basis without stretching the limits of reality and accuracy.
To sum it up, when readers see more “unbelievable” content on Facebook, they crave more of that content, and legitimate news no longer satisfies their palates. This puts local news publishers at a disadvantage, particularly once Facebook’s algorithms come into play. Content that’s shared and commented on ranks higher in the News Feed, regardless of whether it’s accurate, creating a vicious cycle that puts the media industry as we know it in danger.
Facebook’s Policy Change
With all of those concerns in mind, Facebook recently announced a policy change that involves making changes to its algorithm and company policies to combat fake news stories, videos, and images on the social network.
Facebook’s policy change centers around a strategy the company is calling “Remove, Reduce, and Inform.” As the name implies, Facebook intends to remove content that violates its policies, reduce the spread of problematic content, and inform people with more information so they can choose for themselves which articles to read and share.
A few more specific elements of Facebook’s policy change include:
- Facebook is updating its enforcement policy for Facebook groups and launching a “Group Quality” feature.
- It is starting a collaborative process with outside experts to find more ways to quickly fight false news.
- The company is expanding the content the Associated Press reviews as a third-party fact-checker.
- A “Click-Gap” signal will be incorporated into News Feed rankings to make sure people see less low-quality content on the platform.
- And the company is adding “Trust Indicators” to its News Feed Context Button.
How Facebook’s Policy Changes Impact Local Publishers
What can local publishers expect in light of Facebook’s policy changes?
Broadly speaking, Facebook intends to rely more heavily on information from journalists and academics to add context to problematic articles. The company may also include additional reading suggestions to give users a clearer picture of the truth behind controversial topics.
These changes are expected to benefit local publishers. Journalists and academics can tell the difference between a legitimate news source and a hoax website much more easily than an algorithm. Adding a human element should help real news outlets get their articles pushed to the top of the heap, so to speak. Depending on what content Facebook chooses to link to as part of its “additional reading” suggestions, local publishers could see a bump in website traffic, as well.
Facebook’s partnership with fact-checking outlets isn’t new, it was actually launched in December 2016. But Facebook’s policy change pulls additional resources to that program. Once an article is identified as false, its reach in the News Feed is decreased and a fact-check is appended to it. This, once again, benefits local publishers that publish legitimate stories that stand up to the test.
Have you noticed a change in your website traffic as a result of Facebook’s policy change? We’d love to know what sort of traffic volume you’re seeing from Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels.