Citing a Wall Street Journal report that Facebook actively tweaked its algorithm to artificially limit the reach of liberal-leaning political content, Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffrey ripped the company on Friday, saying algorithm changes decimated the site’s traffic, reduced revenue, and “pumped right-wing” disinformation in the process.
In an extensive look at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s political actions in recent years, WSJ reported Friday that “in late 2017, when Facebook tweaked its newsfeed algorithm to minimize the presence of political news, policy executives were concerned about the outsize impact of the changes on the right, including the Daily Wire, people familiar with the matter said. Engineers redesigned their intended changes so that left-leaning sites like Mother Jones were affected more than previously planned, the people said. Mr. Zuckerberg approved the plans.”
Jeffrey tweeted she was “enraged” by this WSJ finding:
2/ Last year, @MonikaBauerlein and I wrote about how Facebook’s changes to its algorithm hurt legit news orgs as it pumped right-wing disinfo machines. We used the impact on our traffic as an example: https://t.co/FbLtTrukYp
— Person Woman Man Camera TV (@ClaraJeffery) October 16, 2020
A Facebook rep told the Journal the company “did not make changes with the intent of impacting individual publishers.”
Jeffrey disagreed, saying Mother Jones was “specifically targeted” and the algorithm change was “an INTENTIONAL change to hurt shops that do serious investigative journalism.”
She shared statistics that the progressive outlet’s monthly page views via Facebook dropped from 10 million in mid-2017 (and a high of 20 million in early 2017) to below 5 million per month in mid-2018, following Facebook’s adjustments.
Facebook’s changes have also crushed Mother Jones from a financial standpoint, too, Jeffrey added.
“What did these changes in algorithm mean to Mother Jones? [Something] like $400,000 to $600,000 a year,” Jeffrey tweeted. “That’s big for a news org our size. This year, we’ve done everything we can to not lay people off. But it’s meant pay cuts for our higher paid employees, loss of 401K match.”
As Jeffrey pointed out, the Top 10 performing links on Facebook are consistently from sites like Dan Bongino, Breitbart and The Daily Wire. The links often point to articles that have no original reporting and are amplified by a network of pages that exploit bigotry and fear. Last month, TheWrap took an in-depth look at why right-leaning publishers like those thrive on Facebook. You can read the full story by clicking here.