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Updated March 29th, 2024 at 13:53 IST

Meta pulls plug on Facebook News tab amid gradual shift from news, politics

Meta's decision to scale back news and political content is part of its effort to address concerns over misinformation and polarisation on its platforms.

Reported by: Business Desk
Meta news tab shutdown
Meta news tab shutdown | Image:Unsplash
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Meta news tab shutdown: Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is set to discontinue its Facebook News tab in the United States and Australia in early April, signalling a shift from news and political content on its platform. This decision follows the closure of the feature in the UK, France, and Germany last year.

Initially launched in 2019, the Facebook News tab served as a curated platform showcasing headlines from national and international news outlets, along with contributions from smaller, local publications. Although the News tab will be retired, users will still have access to news articles through shared links, and news organisations can continue to post and promote their content like any other individual or entity on Facebook.

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Meta's decision to scale back news and political content is part of its broader effort to address concerns over misinformation and political polarisation on its platforms. According to Dani Lever, a spokesperson for Meta, the change primarily affects the system's recommendations rather than posts from accounts users actively follow. Lever stressed that users will retain control over the content they see.

Despite Meta's reassurances, combating misinformation remains a significant challenge, particularly as the US gears up for the presidential election and other political events. Sarah Kreps, director of the Tech Policy Institute at Cornell Brooks School of Public Policy, noted Facebook's unintended entanglement in politics as its platform expanded, leading to increased scrutiny and criticism.

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Rick Edmonds, a media analyst for Poynter, said there's a steady decline in Facebook traffic to news websites over recent years, prompting news organisations to explore alternative audience engagement strategies such as search and newsletters. While the dissolution of the News tab may not come as a surprise, Edmonds acknowledged its impact on the news industry.

Meta cited a substantial drop in Facebook News usage, with over 80 per cent fewer users accessing the feature in Australia and the US last year. However, despite this decline, social media remains a significant source of news for many individuals. A Pew Research study from 2023 revealed that half of US adults occasionally get news from social media, with Facebook leading the pack.

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In response to Meta's recent changes, Instagram users expressed discontent over the platform's decision to halt the proactive recommendation of political content from unfamiliar accounts. Although users have the option to disable this filter, many were unaware of the change, highlighting ongoing concerns about transparency and user control on social media platforms.

(With PTI inputs.)

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Published March 29th, 2024 at 13:53 IST

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