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News Feed FYI: More Local News on Facebook

By Alex Hardiman, Head of News Product and Campbell Brown, Head of News Partnerships

People tell us they come to Facebook to connect with friends. They also say they want to see news about what’s happening in the world and their local community. This month, we’ve announced changes to prioritize posts from friends and high-quality news sources. Today, we’re updating News Feed to also prioritize local news so that you can see topics that have a direct impact on you and your community and discover what’s happening in your local area.

We identify local publishers as those whose links are clicked on by readers in a tight geographic area. If a story is from a publisher in your area, and you either follow the publisher’s Page or your friend shares a story from that outlet, it might show up higher in News Feed.

To start, this change is taking effect in the US, and we plan to expand to more countries this year. You can always choose which news sources, including local or national publications, that you want to see at the top of your feed with our See First feature.

What This Means for Publishers
As we announced earlier this month, we expect the amount of news in News Feed to go down as we focus on meaningful social interactions with family and friends over passive consumption. We are prioritizing local news as a part of our emphasis on high-quality news, and with today’s update, stories from local news publishers may appear higher in News Feed for followers in publishers’ geographic areas. This change is one of the many signals that go into News Feed ranking. For more, see our Publisher Guidelines.

There are no constraints on which publishers are eligible, which means large local publishers will benefit, as well as publishers that focus on niche topics like local sports, arts and human-interest stories. That said, small news outlets may benefit from this change more than other outlets, because they tend to have a concentrated readership in one location.

This is just the beginning of our efforts to prioritize high-quality news. This update may not capture all small or niche-interest publishers at first, but we are working to improve precision and coverage over time. All of our work to reduce false news, misinformation, clickbait, sensationalism and inauthentic accounts still applies.

Our Commitment to Local News
We’ve worked closely with local publishers through the Facebook Journalism Project over the last year, visiting newsrooms around the world to provide training and support for journalists, as well as building products that work for their publications and readers. Local news publishers participated in the majority of our collaborative product tests in 2017, including support for subscriptions in Instant Articles; call-to-action units, which are prompts for readers to like a publisher’s page or sign up for an email newsletter; and a new breaking news format in News Feed.

In addition to prioritizing local news, we are also testing a dedicated section on Facebook that connects people to news and information in their community, called Today In. We are testing this in six US cities and plan to expand in the coming months.

These efforts to prioritize quality news in News Feed, including this local initiative, are a direct result of the ongoing collaboration with partners. Our goal is to show more news that connects people to their local communities, and we look forward to improving and expanding these efforts this year.

News Feed FYI: Replacing Disputed Flags with Related Articles

By Tessa Lyons, Product Manager

Facebook is about connecting you to the people that matter most. And discussing the news can be one way to start a meaningful conversation with friends or family. It’s why helping to ensure that you get accurate information on Facebook is so important to us.

Today, we’re announcing two changes which we believe will help in our fight against false news. First, we will no longer use Disputed Flags to identify false news. Instead we’ll use Related Articles to help give people more context about the story. Here’s why.

Academic research on correcting misinformation has shown that putting a strong image, like a red flag, next to an article may actually entrench deeply held beliefs – the opposite effect to what we intended. Related Articles, by contrast, are simply designed to give more context, which our research has shown is a more effective way to help people get to the facts. Indeed, we’ve found that when we show Related Articles next to a false news story, it leads to fewer shares than when the Disputed Flag is shown.

Second, we are starting a new initiative to better understand how people decide whether information is accurate or not based on the news sources they depend upon. This will not directly impact News Feed in the near term. However, it may help us better measure our success in improving the quality of information on Facebook over time.

False news undermines the unique value that Facebook offers: the ability for you to connect with family and friends in meaningful ways. It’s why we’re investing in better technology and more people to help prevent the spread of misinformation. Overall, we’re making progress. Demoting false news (as identified by fact-checkers) is one of our best weapons because demoted articles typically lose 80 percent of their traffic. This destroys the economic incentives spammers and troll farms have to generate these articles in the first place.

But there’s much more to do. By showing Related Articles rather than Disputed Flags we can help give people better context. And understanding how people decide what’s false and what’s not will be crucial to our success over time. Please keep giving us your feedback because we’ll be redoubling our efforts in 2018.

News Feed FYI: Fighting Engagement Bait on Facebook

By Henry Silverman, Operations Integrity Specialist and Lin Huang, Engineer

People have told us that they dislike spammy posts on Facebook that goad them into interacting with likes, shares, comments, and other actions. For example, “LIKE this if you’re an Aries!” This tactic, known as “engagement bait,” seeks to take advantage of our News Feed algorithm by boosting engagement in order to get greater reach. So, starting this week, we will begin demoting individual posts from people and Pages that use engagement bait.

To help us foster more authentic engagement, teams at Facebook have reviewed and categorized hundreds of thousands of posts to inform a machine learning model that can detect different types of engagement bait. Posts that use this tactic will be shown less in News Feed.

Additionally, over the coming weeks, we will begin implementing stricter demotions for Pages that systematically and repeatedly use engagement bait to artificially gain reach in News Feed. We will roll out this Page-level demotion over the course of several weeks to give publishers time to adapt and avoid inadvertently using engagement bait in their posts. Moving forward, we will continue to find ways to improve and scale our efforts to reduce engagement bait.

Posts that ask people for help, advice, or recommendations, such as circulating a missing child report, raising money for a cause, or asking for travel tips, will not be adversely impacted by this update.

Instead, we will demote posts that go against one of our key News Feed values — authenticity. Similar to our other recent efforts to demote clickbait headlines and links to low-quality web page experiences, we want to reduce the spread of content that is spammy, sensational, or misleading in order to promote more meaningful and authentic conversations on Facebook.

How will this impact Pages?
Publishers and other businesses that use engagement bait tactics in their posts should expect their reach on these posts to decrease. Meanwhile, Pages that repeatedly share engagement bait posts will see more significant drops in reach. Page Admins should continue to focus on posting relevant and meaningful stories that do not use engagement bait tactics. Learn more about engagement bait and how to avoid using it here.

News Feed FYI: Introducing Snooze to Give You More Control Of Your News Feed

By Shruthi Muraleedharan, Product Manager

One of our core News Feed values is giving people more control. Over the next week, we’re launching Snooze, which will give you the option to temporarily unfollow a person, Page or group for 30 days. By selecting Snooze in the top-right drop-down menu of a post, you won’t see content from those people, Pages or groups in your News Feed for that time period.

Seeing too many photos of your uncle’s new cat? Is your friend tempting you with endless photos of ramen on her Japan trip? It turns out, you’re not alone. We’ve heard from people that they want more options to determine what they see in News Feed and when they see it. With Snooze, you don’t have to unfollow or unfriend permanently, rather just stop seeing someone’s posts for a short period of time. The people, Pages, and groups you snooze will not be notified. You will be notified before the Snooze period is about to end and the setting can also be reversed at any time.

Controls for your News Feed aren’t new. With features like Unfollow, Hide, Report and See First, we’ve consistently worked toward helping people tailor their News Feed experience, so the time they spend on Facebook is time well spent. As News Feed evolves, we’ll continue to provide easy-to-use tools to give you the most personalized experience possible every time you visit Facebook.

News Feed FYI: For Video, Intent and Repeat Viewership Matter

Today, we’re making an update to News Feed ranking that will help surface videos people are proactively seeking out and coming back to on Facebook. This change takes two factors into account:

  • Intent matters. With this update, videos from Pages that people proactively seek out, by using Search or going directly to a Page for example, will see greater distribution on News Feed.
  • Repeat viewership matters. Also with this update, we will show more videos in News Feed that people return to watch from the same publisher or creator week after week.

What this means for my Page
As we’ve said, watching video on Facebook has the power to drive conversations, and News Feed remains a place people discover and watch videos. Engaging videos that not only bring people together, but drive repeat viewership and engagement, will do well in News Feed.

For more on this update, you can visit the Media Blog.

News Feed FYI: Introducing News Feed Publisher Guidelines

By Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed

We launched the Facebook Journalism Project to collaborate with the news industry in support of an informed community. A consistent piece of feedback we’ve heard from publishers as part of this effort is that they would like more insight into how News Feed works, in order to understand best practices for reaching their audiences.

In response to this feedback, today we are releasing News Feed Publisher Guidelines, which include “do’s and don’ts” to help publishers succeed on our platform.

As an extension of the Publisher Principles we released in May, we developed these guidelines with social media teams in mind and in consultation with publishers. We will continue to update the guidelines in collaboration with our partners so they can reach their audiences on Facebook.

Click here to view the News Feed Publisher Guidelines, and see below for information on how News Feed ranking works.

News Feed FYI: New Test to Provide Context About Articles

By Andrew Anker, Sara Su, and Jeff Smith

Today we are starting a new test to give people additional context on the articles they see in News Feed. This new feature is designed to provide people some of the tools they need to make an informed decision about which stories to read, share, and trust. It reflects feedback from our community, including many publishers who collaborated on its development as part of our work through the Facebook Journalism Project.

For links to articles shared in News Feed, we are testing a button that people can tap to easily access additional information without needing to go elsewhere. The additional contextual information is pulled from across Facebook and other sources, such as information from the publisher’s Wikipedia entry, a button to follow their Page, trending articles or related articles about the topic, and information about how the article is being shared by people on Facebook. In some cases, if that information is unavailable, we will let people know, which can also be helpful context.

Helping people access this important contextual information can help them evaluate if articles are from a publisher they trust, and if the story itself is credible. This is just the beginning of the test. We’ll continue to listen to people’s feedback and work with publishers to provide people easy access to the contextual information that helps people decide which stories to read, share, and trust, and to improve the experiences people have on Facebook.

How will this impact my page?

We anticipate that most Pages won’t see any significant changes to their distribution in News Feed as a result of this test. As always, Pages should refer to our publishing best practices and continue to post stories that are relevant to their audiences and that their readers find informative.

Blocking Ads from Pages that Repeatedly Share False News

By Satwik Shukla, Product Manager & Tessa Lyons, Product Manager

Over the past year we have taken several steps to reduce false news and hoaxes on Facebook. Currently, we do not allow advertisers to run ads that link to stories that have been marked false by third-party fact-checking organizations. Now we are taking an additional step. If Pages repeatedly share stories marked as false, these repeat offenders will no longer be allowed to advertise on Facebook.

This update will help to reduce the distribution of false news which will keep Pages that spread false news from making money. We’ve found instances of Pages using Facebook ads to build their audiences in order to distribute false news more broadly. Now, if a Page repeatedly shares stories that have been marked as false by third-party fact-checkers, they will no longer be able to buy ads on Facebook. If Pages stop sharing false news, they may be eligible to start running ads again.

False news is harmful to our community. It makes the world less informed and erodes trust. At Facebook, we’re working to fight the spread of false news in three key areas:

  • Disrupting the economic incentives to create false news;
  • Building new products to curb the spread of false news; and
  • Helping people make more informed decisions when they encounter false news.

Today’s update helps to disrupt the economic incentives and curb the spread of false news, which is another step towards building a more informed community on Facebook.

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