Facebook Rigs News Feed — Deboosts ‘Problematic,’ ‘Low Quality’ Content

September 23rd, 2021 4:42 PM

Facebook openly announced its plans it uses to demote content, but at least it’s attempting to be transparent about the process. Right, Facebook? 

The release said it was “to share more detail on how content is distributed on Facebook.” But, in reality, it was about how content is not distributed on Facebook. All for the Facebook offense of being “problematic” or of “low quality.”

Facebook — not users — decides what content is important or high quality in its News Feed. “Our Content Distribution Guidelines outline some of the types of content that receive reduced distribution in News Feed,” Facebook declared in a Sept. 22 update “Types of Content We Demote” in its Transparency Center. “As these guidelines develop, we will continue to provide transparency about how we define and treat problematic or low quality content.” Facebook explained further that “Our enforcements to reduce problematic content in News Feed are rooted in our commitment to the values of Responding to People’s Direct Feedback, Incentivizing Publishers to Invest in High-Quality Content, and Fostering a Safer Community.” 

Several sections simply explained how Facebook limits content.

One section, “Comments that Are Likely to Be Reported or Hidden” explained that the platform will target “Comments that we predict people are likely to hide or report, including because comments like them have often been reported by people as potentially violating our policies.” [Bold added.] The platform explained its rationale for doing so: “Users have reported comments that are hostile to people, indicating that they find such responses offensive and do not want to see these comments on Facebook.” [Emphasis added.]

Another section, “News Articles Lacking Transparent Authorship” illustrated that Facebook will target “News articles that do not contain bylines or a staff directory with editorial staff information at the publisher level.” That would effectively sabotage the reach of critical investigative reporting by anonymous whistleblowers or journalists that wish to remain anonymous. Facebook made an attempt to assuage concerns by writing: “We recognize that in some areas, transparency can put journalists at risk, so we are only doing this in limited markets to start, taking into account the press environment in which publishers operate.”

However, Facebook has clearly dubbed itself the arbiter of truth by suggesting which sites are legitimate, “high-quality, trustworthy” sources for news. Another section explained that Facebook will demote “Posts from Broadly Untrusted News Publishers.” Facebook explained that it will take action on “Content from news publishers that our community broadly rates as untrusted in on-platform surveys.” It then specified that “People tell us they want to see more high-quality, trustworthy news” without qualifying who these “people” it consulted are. Is the Facebook “community” that was consulted even a representative slice of America? Only Facebook knows.

Nowhere in the release did it identify which publishers are “broadly untrusted.”

Facebook even went so far as to warn news publishers that they may get targeted for “News articles that do not contain new, original reporting or analysis.” The entry specified: “The more extensive original reporting an article contains, the more distribution it will receive in News Feed. Original reporting includes things like exclusive source materials, significant analysis, new interviews, or the creation of original visuals.” In other words, Facebook claimed it will deboost something that nearly every outlet does — Unoriginal News Articles.

Facebook also included links to how Facebook will meddle with the distribution of “Content Borderline to the Community Standards” and “Content Likely Violating Our Community Standards.” [Bolding added.] In neither case would that content clearly violate “Community Standards.”

Facebook has interfered with user News Feeds before, especially around elections.

A shocking revelation released by the New York Post on Oct. 14, 2020, cited purported emails from then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter. The news outlet reportedly exposed the alleged corrupt dealings of both father and son in Ukraine. Facebook and Twitter disabled links to the story in October, mere weeks before the election.  The social media and media blackout on the Hunter Biden scandal was a political game changer with dire electoral implications. 

Facebook announced plans to depoliticize its users’ News Feeds after the election in early 2021. “On a conference call with analysts, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook is considering steps it can take to reduce the amount of political content in the News Feed,” CNN Business reported Jan. 27. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly commented: "One of the top pieces of feedback that we're hearing from our community right now is that people don't want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services.” 

Conservatives are under attack! Contact Facebook headquarters at 1-650-308-7300 and demand that Big Tech mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.