Exclusive: Facebook changes algorithm to boost original reporting
Beginning today, Facebook will be updating the way news stories are ranked in its News Feed to prioritize original reporting, executives tell Axios. It will also demote stories that aren't transparent about who has written them.
Why it matters: The tech giant has long been criticized for not doing enough to elevate quality news over hyper-partisan noise. Now, it's trying to get ahead of that narrative as the 2020 election inches closer.
Details: Facebook says that in order to identify which original stories to promote, it will use artificial intelligence to analyze groups of articles on a particular story topic and identify the ones most often cited as the original source.
- This won't change the News Feed experience dramatically for most users, because Facebook will still only showcase stories from news outlets that they or their friends follow. But the tech giant will boost the more original story within that subset.
- The company has been having active conversations with publishing executives, on both the business and editorial sides, to help define "original reporting" so that it can build signals into its algorithms to boost original stories, along with conducting user research.
- The algorithm changes only apply to news stories. For now, the tech giant is focusing on stories in English. It hopes to expand to other languages in the future.
Between the lines: In conjunction with those changes, Facebook will also begin to down-rank news in its algorithm that doesn't have bylines, or present information about the company's editorial staff on the publishers' website.
- It says that in certain markets, this may be tougher to enforce because anonymity is used to protect journalists.
The big picture: News aggregation has changed dramatically over the past few years as platforms face pressure to clean up their content.
- Algorithms at Facebook and rival Google, which used to reward publishers that produced quick, buzzy content that was easy to aggregate, are now being adjusted to reward more thoughtful, original content.
- This has resulted in fewer spammy headlines, clickbait and junk news.
- Google said last year that it adjusted its algorithms and the guidelines used by the people that rate its search results to elevate original reporting.
What's next: Facebook says publishers could see a traffic boost from original reports, but it anticipates that most news publishers won’t see significant changes to their distribution in News Feed due to the changes.
The bottom line: It's a minor but concrete tweak that Facebook can point to as doing something to minimize misinformation.