Sunday 18 March 2018

Facebook to tailor news to keep its users online

David Ingram

Facebook is testing a feature in its News Feed that provides customised links to news on topics of interest to individual users, as the company continues to search for ways to increase the amount of time that people spend using the world's largest social media network.

Any change will add to the controversy about Facebook's hosting of fake news stories and apparent role in entrenching users' biases by filtering news they receive.

Under "Featured Topic" each selected item includes a couple of sentences of text on a subject, a link to a news story and a photo, according to an example seen by Reuters. Facebook confirmed that the feature was in testing and said it was designed to help people discover stories that might be relevant to them.

The company makes frequent changes to the News Feed, typically testing potential features before making them official.

Facebook's News Feed includes items posted by a user's friends and family - displayed in an order according to Facebook's algorithms - as well as ads and posts from outlets that a user likes. Many media companies, however, provide their subscribers with lists of stories that correspond to readers' individual interests, based on their use of a news site.

Presenting news stories has been tricky for Facebook. In May 2016, it changed the procedures behind its "Trending Topics" section after a news report alleged that the company had suppressed conservative news and a Republican US senator demanded more transparency.

Last December it began rolling out a series of changes to stem hoaxes, clickbait and false news stories like those that spread ahead of last year's US presidential election. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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