Facebook executives on Monday defended the recent controversial changes to the types of stories that appear in users’ feeds, acknowledging that the company is staking out a “very clear point of view” on some — but not all — questions.
Facebook has no problem weighing in on things like hate speech and sensationalist news, the company insisted.
“Those are areas where I think it’s appropriate for us to have a point of view,” said Adam Mosseri, the product executive in charge of Facebook’s most valuable real estate — the News Feed — said. “But I do think that there are other areas where it would be really inappropriate to have a point of view, given our scale” — like political ideology.
Mosseri spoke Monday from Recode’s Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, Calif., alongside Campbell Brown, the former NBC anchor who Facebook hired in January to manage its relationship with news publishers.
Here are the ways Facebook said it’s trying to help publishers:
- Facebook is adding a news section to its Watch tab, where users can view original videos. Brown predicted it would be a popular destination during “big, breaking news moments.”
- Facebook has settled a dispute with Apple that prevented the social network from launching a subscription tool for publishers on iOS devices.
- Facebook has lowered the meter on its paywall — the point at which Facebook asks the news reader to go to the original publisher’s website — to five articles.
- Facebook would not rule out paying publishers for content, with Brown saying that she would “never say never to anything.”
But Facebook’s latest change to its New Feed algorithm and its move to rate the trustworthiness of news outlets raises a lot of other questions. The company has started to prioritize posts from regular users at the expense of posts from brands and publishers. CEO Mark Zuckerberg described those posts as “crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”
Brown and Mosseri had some nuanced answers to how Facebook would be evaluating publishers. Brown said Facebook is okay with having a point of view if it means “leaning into quality news,” as well as elevating local media, “broadly trusted publishers” and niche websites that have expertise.
For Mosseri, he added, “We have values and we have standards,” adding that his team is focused on what he calls “the integrity effort.” But he also made clear, Facebook will never make a judgment on any entity’s ideological or political point of view.
And about the company polling its users to find out what they consider trustworthy, Mosseri said, “This is not a popularity contest. We’re looking for trust by a wide range of people.”