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Facebook Exec Worries the Company May Miss Whatever Comes After False News

Facebook is wrangling with a lot of issues these days, ranging from false news to inappropriate content, but the company’s head of newsfeed, Adam Mosseri, thinks that Facebook’s biggest problem may be something that isn’t even on the company’s radar yet.

“We are systematically trying to avoid any blind spots, which is my big fear,” he told the audience at Recode’s Code Media conference in Southern California Monday. That was especially true as important elections were coming up not only in the U.S. this year, but also in other countries around the world — and the potential for nation-states and other actors to try to interfere in novel ways. “That’s what worries me,” he said.

Mosseri was joined on stage by Facebook’s head of news partnerships, Campbell Brown, who said that the company was looking to address some of the issues around false news by putting a bigger emphasis on publishers that are trusted by its community. “Leaning into quality is a big step in that direction,” she said.

However, that’s happening while Facebook is also getting ready to reduce the overall amount of news featured on people’s newsfeeds. “Newsfeed will go from about 5 % of news to about 4% of news,” explained Mosseri.

He conceded that this was a significant drop — 20%, to be precise. And Brown admitted that it was “not totally clear” how the reduction was ultimately going to play out.

Still, Brown contended that Facebook wasn’t tuning its back on news publishers. “This is not us stepping away from news,” she said. Instead, the company was looking to have a stronger point of view on what kind of news might matter to its audience, she said, which could also include a bigger boost for local publications.

As part of this, Facebook is also looking to give news a bigger boost on its Watch platform. “We are creating a section in Watch just for news — a news destination,” she said. The goal was in part to give people easier access to news video during breaking news events, she explained, while also giving news publishers a better way to make money with their news video coverage. “Hard news video is really hard to monetize,” she said.

Brown said that the company was also looking to help publishers with their paywalls, and said that support for paywall subscriptions from newspapers like the New York Times was coming to Facebook’s iOS app in March. She added that the company was also looking to get local publishers ready for subscription businesses, but conceded that paywalls aren’t necessarily the savior of media industry. “It’s not gonna work for everybody,” she said.

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