Facebook to launch news feature that includes Breitbart

Yes, it’s even more news about Facebook. (Things have been very busy lately for Mark Zuckerberg’s company.)

Late last week, Facebook announced plans to launch a dedicated news tab on the social network. The tab will be curated, with some (but not all) of the news outlets paid paid for their presence. Supposedly about 200 different news providers will be included, ranging from USA Today and the Washington Post to BuzzFeed and the Wall Street Journal. Facebook made a deal with News Corp., thus why the Wall Street Journal and Fox News are present.

Facebook News to include Breitbart

Despite the presence of Fox News, there’s one source announced that’s gotten everyone alarmed, and for good reason. Breitbart has been named as one of the sources Facebook plans to use for its news tab. For the unfamiliar, Breitbart is a far-right wing site that’s noted for promoting racist ideologies under the guise of “news.” For example, it’s used “Black crime” as a tag on articles. The site was run by Steve Bannon, before he joined the Trump administration. It’s considered the polar opposite of news by any credible entity; even Wikipedia doesn’t accept it as a valid source for citations.

Zuckerberg’s reasoning for including Breitbart is vague, according to The Verge:

But when New York Times reporter Marc Tracy asked how including Breitbart served that cause [of high-quality and curated news], Zuckerberg emphasized its politics, not its reporting. “Part of having this be a trusted source is that it needs to have a diversity of views in there, so I think you want to have content that represents different perspectives,” he said. Zuckerberg reiterated that these perspectives should comply with Facebook’s standards, and he was cagey about Breitbart’s presence, saying that “having someone be possible or eligible to show up” doesn’t guarantee frequent placement. “But I certainly think you want to include a breadth of content in there,” he said.

All of this is a major reason to be skeptical of Facebook’s news feature. Including sources like Breitbart goes against the idea of combating misinformation. There’s also a strong sense of false equivalence at work—a site that uses a “black crimes” tag on stories isn’t the same as, say, CNN or NPR.

Some suggest it’s meant to mollify conservatives convinced Facebook’s leftist. However, the inclusion of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal should’ve been sufficient conservative-pleasers.

Facebook app on phone
Photo by opopododo (Flickr / CC BY)

My Facebook news advice

Once again, I’ll repeat what I wrote last time. Those using Facebook (and haven’t switched to alternatives by this point) should do the following:

  • Use common sense, regardless how you feel about the news story topic.
  • Follow Snopes.
  • Follow at least one of the following: AP, Reuters, NPR, PBS’ NewsHour, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and/or your local newspaper.

Facebook’s news feature is meant in part to combat misinformation and give users at least some sources of valid news (if they can’t be bothered to follow any themselves). But including Breitbart undermines all of that. It also makes me skeptical about Facebook changing for the better, especially with another major US election due a year from now.

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