Breitbart News, a far-right news publisher with a track record of producing misleading stories with a xenophobic, racist, sexist and homophobic slant, is included in the Facebook News tab. (Breitbart is among the content partners not being paid by Facebook.)
Asked why Breitbart is in the mix given its alt-right agenda, Zuckerberg said part of the company’s philosophy in making the section “a trusted source” is that Facebook News “needs to have a diversity of, basically, views in there…. You want to have content that kind of represents different perspectives but is doing so in a way that complies with standards we have set for this.” In selecting partners, Facebook says it evaluates “a broad range of integrity signals in determining product eligibility, including misinformation — as identified based on third-party fact checkers — community standards violations (e.g., hate speech), clickbait, engagement bait and scraped content.”
Zuckerberg said Facebook and News Corp have been talking for at least three years about launching a dedicated news section funded by the social network.
“I do have one question: What took you so long?” Thomson quipped at the outset of the conversation. Zuckerberg responded, “After the last few years, I now have an appreciation that that is the nicest thing he could have said, because that means that he thinks we actually did something good.”
Thomson noted that News Corp has long advocated for internet platforms to compensate news providers, and cited occasional “content contretemps” over the years between his company and Facebook. The Facebook decision to finance journalism “is a powerful precedent that will echo around editorial departments,” he said, adding, “Mark deserves genuine credit for this digital Damascene moment.”
Other publishers also lauded the rollout of Facebook News as a watershed moment. “For the first time, we’re seeing the platforms step up and take responsibility for their role in the news ecosystem,” BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti wrote in a staff memo Friday.
Eventually, while Facebook News is starting with a small test group, Zuckerberg said he hopes the product will reach as many as 30 million users in the U.S. in the next several years. He also cited Facebook’s pledge to spend $300 million over the next three years to support local news providers.
Facebook is the social-media site U.S. consumers use most commonly for news, with 52% of American adults getting news on the site, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 8-21, 2019.
But most people remain wary of the information they see on Facebook and other internet services. A majority of Americans — 62% of adults — say social networks have too much control over the mix of news people see, and 55% said the role social-media companies play results in a worse mix of news, per the Pew survey. Only 15% of Americans say the influence that sites like Facebook exert results in a better mix of news, while 28% believe their efforts make no real difference.
Some of Zuckerberg’s critics aren’t buying into the narrative that Facebook News will help turn the tide.
“The Facebook News tab is a shiny new object to distract from the damage Zuckerberg has done to journalism and a ploy to steal journalists’ content without compensating us,” Laura Bassett, co-founder of the Save Journalism Project and former senior politics editor for HuffPost, said in a statement Friday. “This initiative will only further his agenda to derail the journalism industry, so that Facebook can be the bearer of all the news.”