technology

Facebook Ditched by Brazil's Biggest Paper Because of News Feed Tweaks

Facebook Unveils Changes to Address Fake News

Brazil’s largest newspaper said it will stop publishing articles on Facebook out of concern that tweaks to the social media’s news feed will lead to an increase in fake news.

Folha de S. Paulo said a drop in visits to the newspaper’s site via Facebook also contributed to its decision to stop publishing on the platform.

The move announced Thursday is one of the first by a major publisher to withhold content entirely from Facebook after the Menlo Park, California-based company decided last month to focus on “meaningful” social interactions and prioritize posts from friends and family, rather than promote items from media outlets and businesses.

The overhaul is bad news for publishers that rely on Facebook to deliver readers. Facebook drives about 17 percent of the visits to the websites of companies participating in Digital Content Next, a group that represents publishers including Bloomberg News, CNBC, Fox and Al Jazeera, for example.

Media companies’ relationships with Facebook have been growing tense. While Facebook has become necessary for distributing content, some publishers have argued the company needs to pay more for it. The relationship has only gotten testier as viral sharing on Facebook has allowed misleading and fake stories to proliferate around elections and other important events, drowning out other news.

Facebook’s new algorithm “reinforces the users’ tendency to consume content with which they have an affinity, stimulating the creation of bubbles of opinion or certainties and the spread of ‘fake news’,” Folha said in a front-page editorial.

Facebook is “committed to building an informed community, and we continue to work with publishers in Latin America so they can leverage our platform to connect with their audiences in meaningful ways,” a representative for the company in Brazil said. “We are also taking decisive steps to make sure the news people see on Facebook is informative and high quality.”

Folha, which cited Russian interference in the U.S. election as an example of fake news spreading, also suggested it’s benefiting less from its ties to Facebook. In December, 24 percent of its readers came through the social network, compared with 39 percent in January of last year. During the same period, the proportion of traffic to Folha articles through Google search grew to 45 percent, up from 34 percent.

Folha has an average of 301.4 million readers a month according to Brazil’s Institute of Circulation Verifier. The newspaper will keep its Facebook page but won’t publish new articles on it and its 5.95 million Facebook followers will still be able to share Folha articles in their personal pages.

— With assistance by Sarah Frier

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