Facebook drops newsfeed experiment after it promoted fake news

Kelley Robertson
March 3, 2018

The test, launched in six countries in October, involved separating users' feeds into two-one for posts from friends and family, and the other for news and other content.

The trial, which was running in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Bolivia, Cambodia, Serbia and Slovakia, was pulled following concerns it actually increased the distribution of fake news and disinformation on the platform.

A Slovakian journalist reported a dramatic drop in organic reach to news websites in his country, while a Cambodian freelancer said Facebook was playing a "dangerous game with free expression" as news outlets and NGOs struggled to reach people with timely information.

Mosseri wrote, "You gave us our answer: People don't want two separate feeds".

That's why in October, the company started trialling an "Explore Feed" tab exclusively dedicated to news posts - leaving the normal News Feed to be filled with baby pictures and snaps of your friend's lasagne.

Now, the firm says it's discontinuing the Explore Feed bookmark this week for users all around the world. Facebook has also stated that it is acting on this feedback by updating the way the company evaluates where to test new products, and how to communicate with them.

When Facebook first announced the test in October, analysts questioned the company's logic.

Mosseri noted (and as most publishers are painfully aware), Facebook made significant changes to its algorithm earlier this year that have already been used to privilege posts from friends and family.

Whatever the intention, the response from Facebook users was decidedly... While it was initially presented as a way to discover new content, the firm has disvoered that it isn't "effective". Its most recent News Feed update had a similar objective to the now-defunct test: The change was made to show people more stuff from their friends and family, and less from brands and publishers. It also says users complained it was harder to access important information and that Facebook didn't clearly communicate the fact that it was a test.

"We constantly try out new features, design changes and ranking updates to understand how we can make Facebook better for everyone", Mosseri added.

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