Facebook has bowed to outrage by calling an end to a controversial experiment in which it deliberately blocked official news reports to members in six countries.
The trial, which was running in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Bolivia, Cambodia, Serbia and Slovakia, was pulled following concerns it actually increased the distribution of fake news and disinformation on the platform.
Citizens in these countries saw posts from official news organisations removed from their own news feeds as part of a desire to focus on content written by friends and family.
This strategy got underway in October after Facebook launched a separate ‘explore’ feed in affected countries, drawing immediate condemnation from the news organisations and businesses affected.
Responding to the cascade of criticism Facebook’s head of news feed Adam Mosseri wrote: “You gave us our answer: people don’t want two separate feeds. In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn’t actually help them connect more with friends and family.”
The half dozen guinea pig nations were particularly put out by the high-handed way Facebook had intervened without any prior consultation or advance warning, prompting Mosseri to make an additional pledge to ‘update the way we evaluate where to test new products, and how we communicate about them’.
This particular trial is unrelated to recent worldwide changes to Facebook’s News Feed which served to demote rather than expunge all content from media, brands and businesses.