Facebook trials News Feed split

Facebook has begun trialing two separate news feeds -- one for friend updates and another for page updates -- but the test is limited to six countries.

Facebook is testing splitting its News Feed into two: A dedicated space for friend updates, and another space, Explore, which contains posts from pages.

The test is currently ongoing in six countries -- Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Serbia, Slovakia, and Sri Lanka -- and is in response to users wanting an easier way to see posts from friends and family, according to Facebook executive Adam Mosseri.

"We've heard from people that they want an easy way to discover relevant content from pages they haven't connected with yet," Mosseri said in a blog post. "The goal of this test is to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content. We will hear what people say about the experience to understand if it's an idea worth pursuing any further."

Mosseri said the test will likely go on for months, but stressed that the company has no plans to roll it out permanently or even conduct tests outside of the six countries. He added that the company will not force commercial pages to "pay for all their distribution".

The changes do not appear to affect paid promotions, according to The Guardian, which are still listed along with friends' updates. If this is true, the change could lead to businesses bumping up their advertising on the platform in an effort to get their pages noticed.

The change has so far resulted in "dramatic drops in organic reach" according to Filip Struhárik, a journalist at Slovakian newspaper Dennik N.

"60 biggest Slovak media pages have four times fewer interactions (likes, comments, shares) since the test," he said.

Two feeds could also result in users seeing fewer links to news stories, possibly in an effort to reduce the flow of hoaxes and fake news.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously detailed plans to rid fake news stories from his platform, including stronger detection to classify misinformation, easier reporting for users to catch misinformation faster, third-party fact checking, flagging more stories, and improving the related articles quality.

"The bottom line is: We take misinformation seriously," Zuckerberg said. "Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information. We've been working on this problem for a long time, and we take this responsibility seriously. We've made significant progress, but there is more work to be done."

It also wants to use artificial intelligence (AI) to detect fake news and other offensive content, specifically "an algorithm that detects nudity, violence, or any of the things that are not according to our policies," according to a Reuters report.

The AI is able to monitor video on Facebook Live and flag it, if offensive content is found. The social network also has an automation process to sift through the "tens of million of reports" of offensive content on a weekly basis.

Earlier this year, Facebook updated News Feed to rank faster-loading web pages higher, while showing fewer stories that might take longer to load.

Facebook said the change allows people to "spend more time reading the stories they find relevant". It also pushes publishers to its Instant Articles format, which lets publishers create faster-loading, interactive articles on the social network.

Last year, Facebook also tweaked the News Feed algorithm to rank stories users would be interested in seeing nearer the top.

Facebook reported advertising revenue of $9.16 billion for the second quarter, up 47 percent year over year, as well as 1.32 billion daily active users on average for June 2017, an increase of 17 percent year over year. Monthly active users were 2.01 billion as of June 30, 2017, also a 17 percent increase.

With AAP

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