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Facebook to Favor Mobile Optimized Websites; Strengthens Fight Against Fake News

9 Aug, 2017 By: Doug McPherson

MENLO PARK, Calif. – Facebook announced a new algorithm that will reduce the reach of websites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices.

Why? First, the company says it has heard complaints from users who are frustrated after clicking on a link that leads to a slow-loading webpage. “During the coming months we’re making an update to News Feed to show people more stories that will load quickly on mobile and fewer stories that might take longer to load, so they can spend more time reading the stories they find relevant,” the company wrote in the announcement.

Second, Facebook reports that 94 percent of its users access the site via mobile.

The move follows exactly what Google did last year – giving priority to mobile optimized sites.

Facebook says the update will roll out gradually, giving publishers the time needed to make adjustments based on Facebook’s new guidelines. The move to optimize the speed in which content serves up in the News Feed follows one made by Google many years ago to speed content on pages and websites. 

“With this update, we’ll soon take into account the estimated load time of a webpage that someone clicks to from any link in News Feed on the mobile app,” wrote Facebook engineers Jiayi Wen and Shengbo Guo in a blog post.

Facebook will take network connection speeds and the speed of the corresponding web pages into consideration. If signals indicate the web page will load quickly, the link to that page might appear higher in the feed.

Analysts says the shift could give a boost to Instant Articles – designed to give site users a better experience – although Facebook makes no mention of possible improvements for the service.

Facebook also announced that after months of testing, it’s expanding its “Related Articles” feature to fight fake news.

The effort will give users “additional perspectives and information, including articles by third-party fact-checkers,” Sara Su, a product manager at Facebook, explained.

Shabnam Shaik, a technical program manager on Facebook’s protect and care team, has said Facebook made improvements to recognize these “inauthentic accounts more easily by identifying patterns of activity … without assessing the content itself. Our priority … is to remove the accounts with the largest footprint, with a high amount of activity and a broad reach.”

But not everyone is applauding Facebook’s approach to fighting fake news.

Mike Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University Vancouver, has said he believes Facebook’s proposed process takes too long, deals only with “surface issues, targets fake news but not slanted claims,” and it doesn’t effectively make use of its own powerful network.

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