Facebook aims to improve policies as it embraces more responsibility

Facebook is changing its focus to ensure time spent by people on the social media platform is well spent by introducing new features including 'FB Watch', while taking on the responsibility of improving policies in the wake of the latest challenges of data misuse.

Patrick Walker, Director of Media Partnerships, EMEA, Facebook, said, on Tuesday at the Arab Media Forum (AMF), that Facebook has evolved significantly over the last 13 years from a platform connecting people to one that builds communities to connect people. "Today, anyone can upload anything and manipulate data. There's no excuse. We are improving policies to address the challenge," explained Walker.

The 17th edition of AMF, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai,, at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, on April 3-4, 2018, is discussing a range of media industry issues under the theme 'Impactful Media Trends'.

Speaking about how Facebook is changing the media landscape, Walker said, "Constant changes in algorithms is the way to stay ahead of the curve and offer authentic and safe services to users. For instance, the Facebook News Feed has revised its focus from being text-driven to highlighting videos and now offers a 360-degree virtual reality experience."

"Our priority for 2018 is to facilitate high-quality news including local news and informative content from trusted sources," said Walker.

Facebook aims to promote meaningful interactions by highlighting articles that can help start conversations between people on important issues. These include 'live' videos that can create tight-knit communities and more interactions and comments.

Yet another aim of the social media giant is to focus on its audience by offering community-building features such as 'Groups'. For instance, 52|48 is a group created by The Times and The Sunday Times, which engages in serious discussions of the UK’s exit from the European Union. When the social media team found that stories on Brexit saw the most interaction on their website, they created a group to help foster a constructive discussion.

Walker cautioned users of indulging in 'Engagement-baiting'. "Trying to get people to comment is not meaningful interaction and can result in demotion of posts and potentially Pages," he said.

Meanwhile, Facebook's 'Journalism Project' helps in collaborative development of news products, while paying detailed attention to news credibility, story formats as well as monetisation. The Project also offers training and tools for journalists and the general public. "Services for the public include false news education, 3rd party fact checking and easier reporting," said Walker.

'FB Watch' - the latest offering by Facebook, which is a success in the United States, will be rolled out across the world shortly, he said, adding that it will help activate communities by being longer on News Feeds apart from boosting regular publishing. "'Watch on Facebook' will only get bigger, what with one-third of the videos being over 10 minutes," said Walker.

The two-day Arab Media Forum brings together more than 3,000 prominent regional and international media figures and thoughts leaders. The event also features 50 speakers representing 20 countries from across the Arab region and the world who will share their views on diverse issues at the Forum with the aim of forging a new vision for the media.

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