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Facebook ending News Feed experiment condemned as ‘Orwellian’

The Guardian // 04th March 2018
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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Facebook ending News Feed experiment condemned as ‘Orwellian'” was written by Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco, for The Guardian on Thursday 1st March 2018 21.29 UTC

Facebook will end an experiment that removed professional news posts from users’ News Feed in six countries, after months of criticism that the “downright Orwellian” move was increasing fake news and misinformation on the platform.

Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s head of News Feed, said in a blogpost announcing the change that the experiment had been motivated by “consistent feedback” that people wanted to see more from friends and family and less from media organizations and businesses on the News Feed.

Starting in October, the company created a separate feed called “Explore” for so-called public posts in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Bolivia, Cambodia, Serbia and Slovakia.

The backlash from news organizations in the affected countries was swift. “Facebook doesn’t think about consequences and has no interest at all in what is happening inside its test countries,” wrote the Slovakian journalist Filip Struhárik, one of the most prominent critics of the experiment. In December, Struhárik used CrowdTangle data to show that the experiment was hurting professional media more than fake news.

“You gave us our answer: people don’t want two separate feeds,” Mosseri wrote. “In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn’t actually help them connect more with friends and family.”

Mosseri also acknowledged the criticism that Facebook had acted high-handedly by completely changing the media landscape for six countries without warning or input from stakeholders, stating that the company would be “updating the way we evaluate where to test new products, and how we communicate about them”.

The end of this experiment is separate from changes to the global News Feed rolled out in January that are supposed to more modestly reduce public content and promote “meaningful social interactions”.

“I’m glad that Facebook will end this test and I am even more pleased that Facebook admitted that they made mistakes when they didn’t communicate the test clearly,” Struhárik tweeted on Thursday. “I hope Facebook will have more interest in what is happening inside its test countries.”

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