Facebook has reversed a switch to its News Feed algorithm that favored authoritative news outlets, even though some workers have requested the “nice” News Feed to become irreversible, according to The New York Times.
Following a dramatic rise in disinformation on the site in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 US presidential election, Facebook modified how it weighted the accuracy of news outlets based on the “News Ecosystem Quality” (NEQ) ranking. Sources like the Times, NPR, and CNN have seen Facebook traffic increase, while more political sites that have reported incendiary or inaccurate election news have seen Facebook traffic decline.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the amendment to the News Feed in the days following the election, when it became apparent that unverified reports of electoral fraud and inaccurate results were prevalent on Facebook. At a recent company meeting, some Facebook staff asked if the “nice news feed” will become official.
But the move has only been supposed to be temporary. “This was a temporary change that we created to help inhibit the growth of incorrect claims about the election,” Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said in an email to The Verge. “News stories make up a small part of what people see on Facebook as a whole and political news makes up a small part of that news material. We continue to ensure that people see reliable and insightful news on Facebook, particularly during major news cycles and around significant global issues such as elections, COVID-19, and environmental degradation.”
Facebook has taken several measures to try to minimize election disinformation, but with mixed performance. The platform announced in October that it would ban U.S. political advertising after the election and that it intended to mark election posts and guide users to authoritative information. It also prohibited paid promotion of election-related posts. The company claims that since the election, there has been a drop in the amount of political content on the website.