In a couple of days after the United States presidential election, Facebook made the choice to hunt down any viral misinformation regarding the results of the election and the refusal of Donald Trump to concede. The company felt that, as with many extreme measures, these issues needed to be dealt with. The need for this came from a viral uptick of misinformation that followed the day after the election.
According to a report from the New York Times, Facebook made a few temporary changes to its News Feed to favor many mainstream media news outlets.
One important element that Facebook tweaked was the weight or importance that the platform’s News Feed was giving “news ecosystem quality” scores. News ecosystem quality is an Internet metric that was made to quantify the trustworthiness of a particular news source.
Because of this, Facebook users began seeing more articles from “trustworthy” publishers, such as CNN, NPR, and The New York Times. Many of these publishers have been categorized as less “hyper-partisan” than other news outlets that have a tendency to peddle either misguided or false information to their millions of followers.
A fair portion of those publishers in question, as well as those with sub-par news ecosystem quality scores, are right-wing sites. These are the same websites that had been spreading false claims and misleading information from Trump about conspiracy theories and election fraud about the breadth of the social network.
For many months, Facebook had signaled its preparation for the worst-case scenarios, including what happened earlier this month when President-elect Joe Biden became the winner of the United States election. However, to this day, Trump continues to undermine the election results while attempting to overturn them.
The scenarios and tools that fall under the umbrella of situations like this are known as “break glass plans,” according to Facebook.
One of the major break glass plans was going in and manually tweaking the News Feed. Mark Zuckerberg was at the head of the authorization of this change when he was told there had been a major swell in unverified right-wing information engagement on the platform. A good majority of this content spewed misleading stories of election fraud and how the Democratic party was stealing the election from President Trump.
However, it was the campaign that came about earlier this summer from a large group of Holocaust survivors who targeted Zuckerberg and asked him to take action as an onslaught of Holocaust denial posts flooded Facebook.
The question that many Facebook employees now have is whether the leaders of the company might be able to keep these changes in play to create a healthier news ecosystem on the platform and one that isn’t so divisive like it is now. News Feed executives, such as John Hegeman, told The New York Times that, as of now, Facebook does not have any plans to implement any permanent changes to the platform after implementing these election-related tweaks.
Instead, Facebook is looking to study these experiments to see what kind of impact it has on users and the overall health of the news ecosystem.