It’s probably not accurate or fair to say that Facebook is entirely responsible for the shitty state of the world right now, with its various failed approaches to presenting news resulting in a widespread distrust of legitimate media and the legitimization of dangerous fringe groups, but here’s one thing that’s both accurate and fair: Facebook fucking sucks, and it’s a fucking shitty way to get the news. Even if you came to this article from Facebook. Even if you buy several different newspapers every day and only check Facebook to see what’s up with your old friends. Even if part of your job involves posting news stories to Facebook on nights and weekends. It’s a bad website, and the basic concept of “news” would be better off if Mark Zuckerberg had stuck to ranking his college classmates based on their appearance.
So let’s all buckle our seatbelts for another wild ride of misinformation, because Facebook is getting back in the news business with another soon-to-be-failed approach to how it presents news stories. As reported by Variety, Zuckerberg has apparently been meeting with members of the “news industry” to talk about a new “news tab” that Facebook is planning. The idea is that it’ll be another separate section from the regular feed, much like the Facebook Watch video platform, and it sounds like the plan is to “balance curation with aggregation” of the news outlets a Facebook user already follows. In other words, it’ll be a mix of the places you choose to get news from on Facebook and places that Facebook thinks you’d like to get news from.
On another exciting note, though, Facebook has also teased that “there is a real opportunity to have better monetization for publishers” than with the existing news feed. Ooh, do you think this is something like when Facebook convinced everyone that video content was extremely popular, driving publishers to “pivot to video” even though it was allegedly all a lie? Or like when Facebook decided to step in and actively trim the amount of news stories that appear in your feed so people would complain less about fake news, even if you actually wanted to see these news stories? Or when Facebook bungled its seemingly innocuous “trending topics” feed by letting human “news curators” choose which things should be popular, feeding directly into the right-wing persecution complex that has emboldened so many awful people?
The common thread in all of those situations is that bad things happen when Facebook decides to get involved in the news, no matter what its intentions are. Actually, bad things happen whenever Facebook decides to get involved in anything (even the one thing it’s supposed to be useful for), so we should all just agree now to try and pretend to be surprised when this “news tab” idea blows up in some spectacular way.