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Facebook to test downranking political content in News Feed

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After years of optimizing its products for engagement, no matter the costs, Facebook announced today it will “test” changes to its News Feed focused on reducing the distribution of political content. The company qualified these tests will be temporary, impact a small percentage of people, and will only run in select markets, including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Indonesia.

The point of the experiments, Facebook says, is to explore a variety of ways it can rank political content in the News Feed using different signals, in order to decide on what approach it may take in the future.

It also notes that COVID-19 information from authoritative health organizations like the CDC and WHO, as well as national and regional health agencies and services, will be exempt from being downranked in the News Feed during these tests. Similarly, content from official government agencies will not be impacted.

The tests may also include a survey component, where Facebook asks impacted users about their experience.

Facebook’s announcement of the tests is meant to sound underwhelming because any large-scale changes would be an admission of guilt, of sorts. Facebook has the capacity to make far greater changes — when it wanted to downrank publisher content, it did so, decimating a number of media businesses along the way. In previous years, it also took harder action against low-quality sites, scrapers, clickbait, spam, and more.

The news of Facebook’s tests comes at a time when people are questioning social media’s influence and direction. A growing number of social media users now believe tech platforms have been playing a role in radicalizing people, as their algorithms promote unbalanced views of the world, isolate people into social media bubbles, and allow dangerous speech and misinformation to go viral.

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In a poll this week, reported by Axios, a majority of Americans said they now believe social media radicalizes, with 74% also saying misinformation is an an extremely or very serious problem. Another 76% believe social media was at least partially responsible for the Capitol riot, which 7 in 10 think is the result of unchecked extreme behavior online, the report noted.

Meanwhile, a third of Americans regularly get their news from Facebook, according to a study from Pew Research Center, which means they’re often now reading more extreme viewpoints from fringe publishers, a related Pew study had found.

Elsewhere in the world, Facebook has been accused of exacerbating political unrest, including the deadly riots in Indonesia, genocide in Myanmar, the spread of misinformation in Brazil during elections, and more.

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Facebook, however, today argues that political content is a small amount of the News Feed (e.g. 6% of what people in the U.S. see) — an attempt to deflect any blame for the state of the world, while positioning the downranking change as just something user feedback demands that Facebook explore.

TechCrunch

FACEBOOK

Facebook fighting against disinformation: Launch new options

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Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has dismantled new malicious networks that used vaccine debates to harass professionals or sow division in some countries, a sign that disinformation about the pandemic, spread for political ends, is on the wane not.

“They insulted doctors, journalists and elected officials, calling them supporters of the Nazis because they were promoting vaccines against the Covid, ensuring that compulsory vaccination would lead to a dictatorship of health,” explained Mike Dvilyanski, director investigations into emerging threats, at a press conference on Wednesday.

He was referring to a network linked to an anti-vaccination movement called “V_V”, which the Californian group accuses of having carried out a campaign of intimidation and mass harassment in Italy and France, against health figures, media and politics.

The authors of this operation coordinated in particular via the Telegram messaging system, where the volunteers had access to lists of people to target and to “training” to avoid automatic detection by Facebook.

Their tactics included leaving comments under victims’ messages rather than posting content, and using slightly changed spellings like “vaxcinati” instead of “vaccinati”, meaning “people vaccinated” in Italian.

The social media giant said it was difficult to assess the reach and impact of the campaign, which took place across different platforms.

This is a “psychological war” against people in favor of vaccines, according to Graphika, a company specializing in the analysis of social networks, which published Wednesday a report on the movement “V_V”, whose name comes from the Italian verb “vivere” (“to live”).

“We have observed what appears to be a sprawling populist movement that combines existing conspiratorial theories with anti-authoritarian narratives, and a torrent of health disinformation,” experts detail.

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They estimate that “V_V” brings together some 20,000 supporters, some of whom have taken part in acts of vandalism against hospitals and operations to interfere with vaccinations, by making medical appointments without honoring them, for example.

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Change on Facebook

Facebook announces news that will facilitate your sales and purchases on the social network.

Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Facebook, announced that the parent company would now be called Meta, to better represent all of its activities, from social networks to virtual reality, but the names of the different services will remain unchanged. A month later, Meta is already announcing news for the social network.

The first is the launch of online stores in Facebook groups. A “Shop” tab will appear and will allow members to buy products directly through the group in question.

Other features have been communicated with the aim of facilitating e-commerce within the social network, such as the display of recommendations and a better mention of products or even Live Shopping. At this time, no date has been announced regarding the launch of these new options.

In the light of recent features, the company wants to know the feedback from its users through the survey same like what Tesco doing to get its customers feedback via Tesco Views Survey. However, the company is still about this feedback will announce sooner than later in this regard.

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