back to article Fake-news-monetizing machine Facebook lectures hacks on how not to write fake news that made it millions

Stung by accusations that it allowed its platform to be hijacked by Russian propagandists, and facing looming regulatory crackdowns, Facebook has decided to shift the spotlight onto journalists and lecture scribes on how not to write "fake news." The social network this week issued guidelines to deter hacks from gumming up its …

  1. Jonathan 27

    Facebook should just rename their "news" section to "entertainment". Once you remove all the fake news from Facebook "News" you're not left with much left.

    1. Flakk

      #FakeEntertainmentNews?

      "Jesse Eisenberg is reportedly in discussions to reprise his role as Mark Zuckerberg, who will take over in the power armor for an ailing Tony Stark in the next 'Avengers' movie.

      No word yet on how badly Zuckerberg will fsck up J.A.R.V.I.S."

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Perhaps they could just get 'content' in from the Mail's Sidebar of Shame. Everyone will know where they stand then.

  2. garetht t

    Dench

    "They probably preaching to the choir."

    She seems pretty "street" for someone from the The Poynter Institute.

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Sounds like el'reg is screwed

    Don't withhold information in a headline.

    Don't exaggerate or sensationalize content in a headline and mislead readers.

    Don't feature sexually suggestive or shocking content on your landing page.

    1. Kurt Meyer

      Re: Sounds like el'reg is screwed

      @ Yet Another Anonymous coward

      Screwed just doesn't seem to fit El Reg properly.

      Might I suggest "self abuse"?

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Sounds like el'reg is screwed

      Those guidelines (the early ones about headlines) do appear to have been written by someone who's never met a sub-editor. Or read a newspaper. Or thought for more than 5 seconds before writing them...

      Anyway I wouldn't come to El Reg if it wasn't for the smut in the headlines. It's the only pleasure I get in life...

      Still my favourite guideline has to be:

      Don't use advertising formats that disrupt the user experience on your landing page.

      Have these people ever seen Facebook's own UI? I admit it changes every couple of weeks, so maybe they've forgotten just how shit it is. And shoving paid for adverts into people's supposed feed of what their friends are doing definitely doesn't disrupt their user experience. Oh no! Though to be fair I still think their UI (and its frequent changes) are far more disruptive to the experience than their ads.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fukerberg speaks

    "Facebook is a business - and a hugely successful one - that makes its money from advertising. So, why would it not want publishers to pay to reach its gigantic audience? Biggest drop in organic reach we've ever seen... Facebook: We currently have no plans to roll this test out further."

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41733119

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Biggest drop in organic reach we've ever seen'

      In every sense, Facebook is systematically annihilating the MSM. Makes you wonder why they're so happy to be Zuk's newsfeed bitch at the same time? Why don't the majors organize as a cartel, and shun their content away from it...???

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: 'Biggest drop in organic reach we've ever seen'

        > Why don't the majors organize as a cartel, and shun their content away from it...???

        I don't think it is the majors who are the problem. ISTM that most of what passes for "news" on FB is merely sensationalised, made-up stuff from people with no interest in informing their audience. They seem to either simply want as many eyeballs as possible or to push their own agenda.

        What I would like to see is FB preventing anything from the "news" section being reposted.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 'Biggest drop in organic reach we've ever seen'

        >In every sense, Facebook is systematically annihilating the MSM.

        Sign of the times - print and broadcast media was dead anyway - I don't believe for a minute Facebook is causal, just convenient - could have been any contender.

        >Why don't the majors organize as a cartel, and shun their content away from it...???

        They need to trim the mass of deadwood and then look beyond. Facebook is gone tomorrow or at best treading water with the ever-older talking in circles. My kids and peers don't (and will never) use Facebook, it's just not relevant to them - they trudge from social fad to social fad, month by month - MSM needs the agility to follow the future audience not an alternate static platform for last century's comfort zone mentality.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Angel

          Re: 'Biggest drop in organic reach we've ever seen'

          Are you suggesting that the young'uns no longer need much of a comfort zone? Have they been altered that much?

          Are we talking about a bizarre intertubes variant of Childhood's End here?

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: 'Biggest drop in organic reach we've ever seen'

          Anon,

          Google and Facebook are responsible for the worsening decline of the mainstream media. Not that it hasn't been happening for ages of course, but last year FB and Google hoovered up something like 95% of the growth in the world's advertising spend.

          It wouldn't be a total disaster for them if the newspaper industry could stop selling papers and move online only - because they could dump a whole side of their business to do with printing and distribution. But the ones that have given their stuff away for free online are struggling to make their money back because they haven't been getting the growth in online advertising revenue for years - that's gone to Google and Facebook. And the ones that are trying a subscription model are struggling, because of the ones that are free.

          This then takes them into a downward spiral as they sack people to make smaller losses, and that lowers the quality, and so they lose more readers. But it also doesn't help that where they do have popular articles, many people are finding them via Google and FB, and so only seeing the ads on that one article, and not wandering around the rest of their pages seeing more ads.

          The media are fully capable of fucking everything up without help of course, but Google and Facebook are helping. They're also too short-sighted to wonder what content they're going to display in a few years, if they destroy all the revenue streams of the companies that provide that content.

          As for TV, it's not doing as badly as the print media. Advertising has declined, but that decline seems to have slowed - and viewership isn't dropping at the catastrophic rates that readership of print media is. People still watch a lot of hours of telly. Obviously you've got disruptors coming in, like Amazon and Netflix. But they still buy most of their content off the traditional providers, and unlike Google and Facebook with the print media - Amazon and Netflix actually pay for it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 'Biggest drop in organic reach we've ever seen'

            >As for TV, it's not doing as badly as the print media. Advertising has declined, but that decline seems to have slowed - and viewership isn't dropping at the catastrophic rates that readership of print media is.

            I guess you don't know many kids - scheduled/broadcast TV simply isn't a thing for the under 20s.

            > Obviously you've got disruptors coming in, like Amazon and Netflix. But they still buy most of their content off the traditional providers

            Netflix and Amazon spend on their own content is massive compared to trads (Netflix 2018 spend will be 7/8 billion in 2018 and they have driven licensed content prices into the floor). Netflix dominates commercial youth viewing, Amazon has a similar aged base viewership to broadcast. The cool factor is from niche platforms and You Tube, but Google is busy killing the latter with ads (income for You Tubers is down considerably on 2 years ago despite far more intrusive ads for viewers which are greatly resented).

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: 'Biggest drop in organic reach we've ever seen'

              Well Netflix say they intend to spend $6-8 bn this year on their own content, with them producing an average of 50% of their output. Not sure if they'll be able to scale up that fast, and maintain quality though. Obviously they'll be using outside production companies, which is what the big broadcasters do as well, but even so it's a big change in commissioning and oversight. Or they could do co-productions and become just like studios.

              I do know that kids don't watch much broadcast telly. But they do use the websites. As they still watch lots of telly content, just not in the traditional way. It will be interesting to see how those habits change as they grow up, and are old enough to have their own telly in their own living room. I guess they'll all have smart TVs and watch a mix of Netflix / Amazon mainstream telly.

              But the broadcasters are still in the game, still produce some content and still have some options left. They're not yet at the stage of losing 10% of their viewers every year (as print media are) and ten years into that horrible decline in with no solution yet worked out.

              However the reaction to "Fake News" may drive people back into the arms of the print media. I believe that the New York Times claimed a huge jump in subscribers after Trump's win - so maybe the trend of apathy about politics will reverse, and help the print media recover a bit? Plus people might decide that if you want decent news coverage, you have to pay for it somehow. And that will give the old print media a chance at a revenue stream.

  5. GrumpyKiwi

    Surely the media should be happy with Faecesbook's behaviour. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery after all.

  6. veti Silver badge
    Go

    Good idea

    No, seriously.

    Nobody can regulate the press. It's some combination of illegal, politically suicidal and logically impossible.

    But there's nothing to stop someone like Facebook from creating a code of conduct for publishers, and then sanctioning those who refuse to follow it by cutting their audience.

    Will they be perfect? Of course not. (What is? Seriously. If your objection is "I don't want Facebook making that decision", then who do you want making it? "Informed and educated readers" is no answer; that's like saying "if we lived in a perfect world we wouldn't need this shit", which is true of everything and helpful to nothing.)

    If there's any way of dragging journalism back out from the abyss of clickbait and trolling that it's fallen into, it's going to be something like this. Something that goes straight to their bottom line.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Re: Good idea

      > "If there's any way of dragging journalism back out from the abyss..."

      Journalism is not a monolith. There's just as much high quality writing out there as ever, on both wings. It's just getting buried under a great meadow muffin of dreck posing as 'news.' The fake stuff drains the oxygen from the news environment, increasing financial pressure on actual journalists who were never paid that well anyway.

      Face it, we're all fated to enjoy a very moronic news future, one which future civilizations (if any) will call the "Great Dumbing Down" (GDD).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good idea

        Face it, we're all fated to enjoy a very moronic news future, one which future civilizations (if any) will call the "Great Dumbing Down" (GDD).

        Already happened. BBC News website is dominated by endless lightweight tripe around its obsession with equality, gender identity and climate change. The Guardian is reduced to a curated collection of liberal blogs from around the world (a sort of global outlet for Australian or American would-be socialists), the Daily Mail hasn't been a premium news source for decades if ever, but is now just clickbait central.

        The Telegraph is slowly disappearing behind a paywall, to the same obscurity as the Times. In fact, there's a thought for you - The Times - it is possible to ask is that still a thing? I know it is, but having retreated behind a paywall with its last handful of subscribers some years ago, I can't see how it can afford any journalism at all. The Independent came along, had a flash of glory, and has now gone, with digital editions you'd have to be desperate to read. The new kids on the block (FB, Huffpost) are so lightweight that they add nothing.

        If you want good, analytical, well informed, fearless and investigative journalism, where do you turn? FT and The Economist are both good in a very business focused way, but both are subscription online for anything other than a handful of articles. Ultimately, I think this all comes down to the failure of all publishers to create a proper micro-payment system, and they've then worked up what they need to charge from the minority who feel they have to pay. I can't see bitcoin mining working for big publishers, but absent a large paying readership they are going to slide out of existence. Very few people will pay the £8-10 per week for the full fat subscriptions that the publishers current demand. £400 a year for a digital news service - who are they kidding?

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Good idea

          @Big John: It's true that there is good writing, but that's not the most important point of journalism. The most important role traditional journalists used to play was not in writing the news, but curating it. Reporting the things (they judged) their readers needed or wanted to know, and not wasting their time with everything else.

          Facebook and Google are both trying to do that now, and Facebook is closer to succeeding than Google. There are still major issues with the online model (most problematically: newsfeeds "customised" to the user means that you will never know what "news" someone else has or hasn't been exposed to), but it's currently the only plausible place to insert some kind of firewall between the user and the deluge of clickbait.

          @Ledswinger: To be fair, the Economist offers me a digital subscription for £240 for one year. And that drops considerably further if I'm willing to pay for 3 years up front.

          But then, their paywall is trivial to circumvent anyway.

          The Independent is a sad case. It used to be my daily paper of choice, back in the days when I had such a thing. Now it still has some great writers, but the editorial team has been allowed to co-opt the whole thing into... not exactly an ideological mouthpiece, more like an apologetic (in the old sense of the word) propaganda rag for the metropolitan elite. Almost every story is shamelessly spun toward that single axis. So shamelessly that it's actually intrusive, now.

          The Guardian is not bad, for news. (It's often better at covering my home country's news than the native press.) The BBC is OK, although the obsession with video gets more irritating every week - there's less and less actual content shown on the home page. The Telegraph's paywall seems to me to be mostly for clickbait - if you don't want to read those articles, most of the actual news is outside it.

      2. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: Good idea

        @Big John,

        There certainly is some quality journalism left, but you can see how quickly it has been forced to move towards clickbait-ism to compete with the fake news crowd.

        I suspect most journalists would be very pleased with reductions in clickbait, as right now they're all being forced to dumb down and would like to be able to do more good stuff.

  7. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Repackaging

    They started with a fake news instruction manual, put "Don't" at the start of each sentence and called it a restriction list. Fake news makers will be using the result as a check list to ensure maximum profit. Why did they miss out: "Don't invent news to match the target audience's bias"?

    1. Dr Scrum Master

      Re: Repackaging

      Why did they miss out: "Don't invent news to match the target audience's bias"?

      Because matching to the target audience's bias is the part that Facebook plays.

  8. Pu02

    I used to be the only one that was mad...

    but now the whole world consumes fb to excess, everyone else has become crazier than me.

    Luckily, someone is getting rich, as otherwise it'd all be for nothing.

  9. Florida1920
    Headmaster

    My Facebook Rule

    "Don't look at Facebook."

  10. Andrew Hodgkinson
    Trollface

    Facebook implemented a set of guidelines - and you won't believe what happened next!

    Number 7 blew my mind!

    <-- [Prev] I ate 30 tomatoes a day AND LOST 15KG IN A WEEK <--

    --> [Next] 23 Reasons You Should Only Buy Blue Donuts -->

    1. #define INFINITY -1
      Happy

      Re: Facebook implemented a set of guidelines - and you won't believe what happened next!

      Thank you.

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