Facebook News goes as Meta backs off news, politics

March 29, 2024 08:16 | News

Meta will sunset Facebook News in early April for users in the US and Australia as the platform further de-emphasises news and politics.

The feature was shut down in the UK, France and Germany in 2023.

Launched in 2019, the News tab curates headlines from national and international news organisations as well as smaller, local publications.

Parent company Meta says users will still be able to view links to news articles and news organisations will still be able to post and promote their stories and websites, as any other individual or organisation can on Facebook.

The change comes as Meta tries to scale back news and political content on its platforms following years of criticism about how it handles misinformation and whether it contributes to political polarisation.

“This change does not impact posts from accounts people choose to follow; it impacts what the system recommends, and people can control if they want more,” Meta spokeswoman Dani Lever said.

“This announcement expands on years of work on how we approach and treat political content based on what people have told us they wanted.”

Meta said the change to the News tab did not affect its fact-checking network and review of misinformation.

But misinformation remains a challenge for the company, especially as the US presidential election and other races get under way.

“Facebook didn’t envision itself as a political platform,” said Sarah Kreps, director of the Tech Policy Institute in the Cornell Brooks School of Public Policy.

“It was run by tech people, and then suddenly it started scaling and they found themselves immersed in politics, and they themselves became the headline.”

“I think with many big elections coming up this year, it’s not surprising that Facebook is taking yet another step away from politics so that they can just not, inadvertently, themselves become a political headline.”

Rick Edmonds, media analyst for Poynter, said the dissolution of the News tab was not surprising for news organisations that had been seeing diminishing Facebook traffic to their websites for several years, spurring organisations to focus on other ways to attract an audience, such as search and newsletters.

News makes up less than three per cent of what users worldwide see in their Facebook feeds, Meta said, adding the number of people using Facebook News in Australia and the US dropped by more than 80 per cent in 2023.

However, according to a 2023 Pew Research study, half of US adults get news at least sometimes from social media, and one platform outpaces the rest: Facebook.

Three in 10 US adults say they regularly get news from Facebook, according to Pew, and 16 per cent of US adults say they regularly get news from Instagram, also owned by Meta.

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