If at first the algorithms don’t succeed in stopping disinformation, just add humans. But if the algorithms get too annoying, just go back to the algorithm. So we’re going around the social media carousel.
Meta, which owns Facebook, confirmed that starting early next year, the human-curated Top Stories section of the News tab will instead be managed by the algorithm. In an email statement, a meta spokesperson told Gizmodo, “Most people don’t come to Facebook for news, and as a company there’s no point investing too much in areas that don’t align with user preferences .” The company has said that less than 3% of what people see on their feed are news links. Apparently, the company sees news links as such a small reason people come to Facebook that they’re actively trying to roll back all news-related features.
The UK based news site press gazette originally reported that Facebook plans to end all human curation on the News tab in the UK. Human hands mainly dealt with the Top Stories section of the News tab, but in 2023 this will be completely handled by the algorithm.
The press sheet reported Earlier this month there were just 15 contractors and freelance journalists being paid to curate the feed of millions of UK Facebook users. They were also reportedly prevented from working for other companies, despite having no working time guarantees.
Even this limited investment in human help with news curating seems to be on the rise. Facebook designated the Top Stories section as a small part of the overall News tab, while the rest was handled by the algorithm. Facebook has announced that it will only display sources registered in its News Page Index, which, while including major news sources such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, also includes others “independently” Sources also previously included far, far-right bastions of disinformation like Breitbart.
According to the Press Gazette report, the freelance journalists had to strictly adhere to a chart that focused on non-sensational news from a list of “acceptable” news sites. They were also asked not to focus solely on crime, politics, or other sensational headlines.
Facebook has struggled to manage messages on its platform, but their ineffective algorithmic curation policy has led to disastrous results. As early as 2016, reports began pounding on Facebook that the algorithm had been tampered with by the company. Gizmodo published its own article titled Former Facebook employees: We have routinely suppressed conservative messages which, while being hyped up by right-wing figureheads and media, caused such an uproar Facebook began to resist any new form of newsfeed moderation (newsfeed was renamed to “feed” earlier this year). The leaked Facebook papers showed that after former President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, the platform began avoiding moderation by right-wing sites that spread disinformation and fake news.
In response to backlash Facebook announced it was hiring beefy, real-life people to curate the news tab in real-time.
Now Facebook would rather refrain from any hint that it still deals with news, routinely labeling it unprofitable and a shrinking part of its overall strategy. Facebook plans stop paying news publishers for content posted to its News tab, and it recently announced that it would Closure of Instant Articles in 2023. Meta has bigger things in mind overall, like tracking the metaverse while copying TikTok to make those sweet short form video earnings.