Facebook’s News Feed gets a ‘positive’ spin
Facebook looks to revamp its image by using its News Feed to promote positive news about the company.
The tech giant is taking matters into its own hands following months of scrutiny over the company’s handling of various scandals, including the spread of Covid-19 misinformation, concerns over user data privacy and hate speech. The new initiative code-named Project Amplify will push pro-Facebook news items and highlight more posts written by company employees, in an attempt to reshape the company’s image.
Such posts will appear on users’ newsfeeds marked with a Facebook logo that will link to stories and websites published by the company and from third-party local news sites. One story pushed “Facebook’s Latest Innovations for 2021” and discussed how it was achieving “100 per cent renewable energy for our global operations.” Facebook reportedly tested the initiative in three U.S. cities through a tool called “Quick Promote” after Zuckerberg approved it in August, according to the Times.
In response to the Times report, Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne told Insider in a statement, “There is zero change to the News Feed ranking. This is a test for an informational unit clearly marked as coming from Facebook. It’s not the first of its kind, and is similar to corporate responsibility initiatives people see in other technology and consumer products.”
Facebook has also attempted to distance Zuckerberg from its response to the influx of scandals in recent months with Zuckerberg focusing on promoting new products and initiatives. The Times also reported that the social media giant has taken drastic measures to limit access to internal data, disabling Facebook accounts and pages of a group of New York University researchers.
The group of researchers created a feature for web browsers that enabled them to access the user activity of 16,000 participants. The resulting data revealed the dominance of misleading political ads on Facebook during the 2020 election. It also showed that users engaged most with right-wing misinformation.
Lead N.Y.U. researcher Laura Edelson said Facebook cut her off because of the negative attention her work brought. “Some people at Facebook look at the effect of these transparency efforts and all they see is bad P.R.,” she said.
Facebook has also experienced a major fallout from disgruntled Facebook employees speaking out against the company and leaking internal documents which led to the Wall Street Journal publishing articles revealing how Facebook knew about the harms it was causing. The company has attempted to gain more public favour by drumming up its marketing efforts spending a record $6.1 billion on marketing and sales. The company also paid for television spots that aired during the Summer Olympics with the tagline “We change the game when we find each other,” to promote how it fostered communities.
Although the response to the announcement of Facebook’s new initiative has been overwhelmingly negative with the company’s Facebook former public policy director Katie Harbath saying, “They’re realizing that no one else is going to come to their defence, so they need to do it and say it themselves”. It remains to be seen whether it will have a positive impact on the company’s image once it is rolled out worldwide.
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