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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Facebook announces big changes to instant article sharing feature

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After a few days of tussling with Australia’s privacy commissioner over the company’s claim that it is a neutral and trustworthy source of news, Facebook has decided to curb some of the most popular sharing feature on its platform.

The company will now require users to post news stories directly on the site rather than via its Instant Articles platform. In a blog post, Facebook said it did so to “ensure we’re offering the right experience for Australians.”

Why? Because there have been reports in recent months that users’ posts are shown to Facebook’s platform’s most popular users. That’s been an issue with Instant Articles, a feature that aims to surface news articles on Facebook in the same experience as articles from other websites.

The issue, which Facebook’s privacy commissioner did not directly address, has been flagged on a wiki among journalists on the Huffington Post’s live coverage.

The retraction will only impact Instant Articles, not the other sharing options the company offers.

Facebook said users can still edit posts that have been seen by Facebook’s most popular users, or delete posts they’ve seen themselves.

At the same time, Facebook is also reshuffling Instant Articles. The company is shutting down one feature that compiles aggregation sites and will instead send stories to them directly. It is also integrating a new feature into Instant Articles, Facebook said, that users can click on and choose to see on their website or in another app. Users will also have the option to see public breaking news stories from other sources on Facebook, Facebook said.

Facebook may well be in the midst of a big effort to tweak the news product that it offers. In an earnings call last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company will be investing about “10 times more” on news in the coming year, noting that Facebook will be working with partners as well as creating its own content.

In a related post, Facebook also said it will make the media partner migration process easier, with its news product director announcing that the company will improve its ability to automatically identify individual articles that users share.

Facebook’s tweak is limited to Australia for now. The company is not commenting on reports it is nearing a similar decision in the United States.

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