A rendering from Facebook showing how one of the ads will look.Facebook
- Facebook rolled out a new “high quality” news tab on its mobile app, starting with some US users on Friday.
- Among major publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post, along with regional newspapers like the Dallas Morning News and the Chicago Tribune, Facebook selected Breitbart News to be one of around 200 outlets featured in the tab.
- Breitbart News is highly controversial, as its former executive chairman-turned-campaign mastermind for President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, told a reporter in 2016 that the site is “the platform for the alt-right.”
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the tab should have a “diversity” of views in order to become a trusted source.
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Facebook’s handling of news content on the platform has previously proved controversial, but the social media giant is taking steps to prioritize “high quality” journalism in a new tab that launched for some US users on Friday.
The news tab allows users to see top stories from across around 200 platforms, which include major publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post. It also showcases some local and regional publications like the Dallas Morning News and the Chicago Tribune.
Among the various online platforms rounded up in the tab, Breitbart News stands out as a controversial pick. The site stylizes itself as an objective publication, but it doesn’t just lean right – its former executive chairman who went on to run Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Steve Bannon, described it as “the platform for the alt-right.”
A mock-up of how the new Facebook news tab will look on the platform’s mobile app.Facebook
Breitbart has been described elsewhere as a white supremacist platform, a characterization the platform has disputed and threatened to sue over. Nonetheless, it promotes racist rhetoric and used a category tag called “black crime” for several years. Its stories often push anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim narratives, and heavily promotes Trump.
In addition to its slant, despite Facebook’s anti-fake news advertisements, Breitbart has used misleading statistics, graphs, and figures in the past to push false assertions, such as that Trump won the popular vote. To state that “Trump won the heartland,” Breitbart outright ignored 52 counties won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Days ahead of the roll-out, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced critical questions from lawmakers when he defended Facebook’s cryptocurrency plan, Libra, along with a host of other issues, including the platform’s decision not to remove factually incorrect political advertisements.
“This is a democracy,” Zuckerberg replied. “I believe people should be able to see for themselves what politicians they may or may not have voted for are saying and judge their character for themselves.”
In addition, The Guardian reports that at a launch event for Facebook News in New York, Zuckerberg declined to answer about the inclusion of Breitbart News specifically, but said “I do think that part of having this be a trusted source is that it needs to have a diversity of … views in there.”