Masters of the Universe: Facebook Tells Publishers It Will ‘Minimize the Bad’ and ‘Promote Quality’

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Facebook Head of News Product Alex Hardiman expressed the company’s plans to “redefine its relationship” with news publishers in an effort to “minimize the bad” and “promote quality” during a panel at the South by Southwest film festival.

CNN reports that during a panel discussion at the South by Southwest film festival, Facebook’s head of news product, Alex Hardiman, stated that the social media platform was working on “redefining its relationship” with news publishers. Hardiman stated that the company was working on developing products for the platform that would benefit news publishers and promote accurate journalism. “As we are making the shift to quality, everything is on the table,” Hardiman said. “We’re having active conversations with a lot publishers, academics, and experts in the space.”

Hardiman stated that Facebook aims to “minimize the bad” and “promote quality” on the social media platform’s news feed. CNN’s Brian Stelter surprisingly criticized the platform telling Hardiman that at times it felt like Facebook failed to understand how the news business works and suggested that Facebook consider paying publishers directly for their journalism. Hardiman claimed that the company’s recent algorithm update, which prioritizes posts from family members on the site above posts from publishers, was not solely responsible for publishers going out of business. Publisher LittleThings shut down recently citing the algorithm change as the cause of many of their issues. Hardiman claimed that publishers who blame Facebook for their issues are likely “abusing the system” in other ways.

Hardiman repeated a sentiment expressed by Facebook’s Head of News Partnerships, Campbell Brown, saying that the company now planned to prioritize news publishers by trustworthiness. “For us, we historically within Facebook did not distinguish between different types of news, and that was problematic,” Hardiman said. “Flattening the news meant you couldn’t always tell the difference between something that was trusted and credible, versus something fraudulent.”

Hardiman stated that Facebook was working on a number of initiatives to help publishers monetize their content on the platform and had invested $3 million in a publication accelerator program which the company describes as a “three-month pilot program in the United States to help metro newspapers take their digital subscription business to a new level.” Stelter noted that $3 million is a very small investment for Facebook, which hit $13 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Hardiman was asked about the upcoming midterm elections and what Facebook was doing to prepare themselves for them “We’ve got our work cut out for us,” but “we’re making good progress,” said Hardiman.


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