On Friday, Facebook began rolling out a new tab in the U.S. called Facebook News, a dedicated section on the mobile app for content from dozens of publishers. The feature, currently available to a few hundred thousand users, will highlight a range of stories selected by a team of journalists at the company and will provide users with the option to delve deeper into topics like entertainment, business, and sports. Facebook News will draw its material from a number of established and digital publications, some of whom will be paid for licensing their content to the service, such as the Washington Post, NBC News, BuzzFeed, and the Chicago Tribune. Other participants include Business Insider and Slate, which is not being paid for its content. Since part of the point of the news tab is to elevate reliable information that might get drowned out in the algorithmically powered news feed, one name in particular stood out on Friday: Bloomberg reported that Facebook News will also include content from Breitbart.
Breitbart’s role in the news feature sparked outrage among journalists and activists alike. The far-right news site has a record of running and failing to correct inaccurate stories and of disseminating misogynistic and white nationalist viewpoints. Past headlines have included “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew” and “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.” The latter article contained the line, “We need the kids if we’re to breed enough to keep the Muslim invaders at bay.” Breitbart, which once featured a “Black Crime” section, has a penchant for publishing racist stories that link people of color and immigrants to crime. The site also boosted conspiracy theories about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich and Pizzagate and has pushed climate change denialism. Reports indicate that while Breitbart may have pulled back from its most extreme rhetoric in recent years, it still spreads misinformation.
During an event on Facebook News at the Paley Center for Media, Zuckerberg declined to comment on Breitbart but said that the feature needed to have diverse views in order to be a trusted source. In recent months, the CEO has hosted conservative journalists and other figures at one of his homes in California, part of an apparent effort to defuse conservatives’ unproven allegations that the social network is biased against the right. Breitbart did not respond to Slate’s request for comment.
When Slate asked Facebook about Breitbart’s inclusion in Facebook News, a spokesperson wrote in part, “Please note the number of publishers in the tab will grow over time—and it will be dynamic. If a publisher falls out of eligibility for posting misinformation, or clickbait or scraping content—for example, they will no longer appear in Facebook News.” The spokesperson also noted that Breitbart is not a paid publisher. Breitbart is also a participant in Apple News, which is similar to the Facebook news tab and available on all iOS devices.