Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

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.

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Jun 25, 2020 - Technology

Google will start paying publishers to license content

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

In a major departure from its long-standing practice of not paying publishers directly to distribute their work, Google executives tell Axios that the search giant is creating a licensing program to pay publishers "for high-quality content" as a part of a new news product launching later this year.

Why it matters: Regulators around the world have been threatening Google with broad-based policies that would force it to pay publishers on policymakers' terms. Google aims to get ahead of that threat by introducing its own payout terms, while also strengthening its relationship with the embattled publishing community.

Biden releases plan to strengthen coronavirus supply chain

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign released a three-part plan Tuesday to rebuild U.S. supply chains in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and it's centered around the idea that the country is more vulnerable to global disruptions in spite of President Trump's "America First" rhetoric.

Why it matters: Biden is proposing a way to make sure the U.S. doesn't rely on other countries for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other related medical supplies. That's another way of acknowledging that we're not getting over this health crisis anytime soon.

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The major police reforms that have been enacted since George Floyd's death

NYPD officers watch a George Floyd protest in Manhattan on June 6. Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images

Nationwide Black Lives Matter protests sparked by George Floyd's killing have put new pressure on states and cities to scale back the force that officers can use on civilians.

Why it matters: Police reforms of this scale have not taken place in response to the Black Lives Matter movement since its inception in 2013, after George Zimmerman's acquittal for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager.