Facebook reportedly made an “emergency change” to its algorithm post-election to tamp down on news and posts from some sites and pages, identified by The New York Times as mostly right-leaning sources, from spreading what the platform deemed to be “election misinformation.” The result was the promotion of legacy media content and the suppression of alternative sources to news.
In the aftermath of the election, the social media giant initiated some of its “break glass” plans to curb what it deemed as misinformation circulating on its platform, according to The New York Times. The plans reportedly involved changing how the platform allows articles from certain outlets and posts from certain pages to spread.
Facebook employees found that after the election, news stories from right-leaning outlets and pages on instances of voter fraud, miscounted ballots, and other election irregularities, mistakes, and misconduct were some of the most popular articles on the platform. As the Times frames it, “President Trump was already casting the election as rigged, and stories from right-wing media outlets with false and misleading claims about discarded ballots, miscounted votes and skewed tallies were among the most popular news stories on the platform.”
To combat the spread of such stories, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed to change how his social media site promotes and suppresses certain news articles and posts in users’ news feeds. The Times reports:
It involved emphasizing the importance of what Facebook calls “news ecosystem quality” scores, or N.E.Q., a secret internal ranking it assigns to news publishers based on signals about the quality of their journalism.
Typically, N.E.Q. scores play a minor role in determining what appears on users’ feeds. But several days after the election, Mr. Zuckerberg agreed to increase the weight that Facebook’s algorithm gave to N.E.Q. scores to make sure authoritative news appeared more prominently, said three people with knowledge of the decision, who were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.
The change was part of the “break glass” plans Facebook had spent months developing for the aftermath of a contested election. It resulted in a spike in visibility for big, mainstream publishers like CNN, The New York Times and NPR, while posts from highly engaged hyperpartisan pages, such as Breitbart and Occupy Democrats, became less visible, the employees said.
Facebook’s vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, said on a call last week with reporters that changes made to the platform to cut down on what it deemed misleading and false information in the wake of the election are not meant to be permanent. Rosen did say the social media company would track the effects of the changes and use the results to inform later decisions.
However, some Facebook employees are pushing to make the changes permanent, according to The Times. A handful of employees asked if the “nicer news feed” would remain in place at a company meeting a week after the election.
Facebook did not immediately respond to The Daily Wire’s request for comment.
A Facebook spokesman told the Times, “There are tensions in virtually every product decision we make and we’ve developed a companywide framework called ‘Better Decisions’ to ensure we make our decisions accurately, and that our goals are directly connected to delivering the best possible experiences for people.”