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Facebook's algorithm change hurts conservative news sites, helps liberal sites, analysis shows

Facebook's new algorithm is hurting conservative news publishers, while boosting liberal-leaning publishers. The 12 most conservative sites saw their traffic from Facebook plummet by an average of 27.06 percent. (Getty Images)

Facebook changed its algorithm, again. And according to the Western Journal, conservative news sites that have taken the greatest hit.

The Journal's recently published analysis showed that liberal-leaning publishers gained about 2 percent more web-traffic since the change in early February, while conservative sites have lost an average of 14 percent of their Facebook-generated traffic.

What's an example of the traffic change?

The New York Daily News and the New York Post are two well-known rival publishers who report on similar stories, except they have differing editorial leanings.

The Post is more conservative, and the Daily News leans more liberal.

After the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, the Daily News ran this headline: “Brave Florida survivors plan day of action for gun sanity and to call out ‘blood on hands’ of NRA puppets.”

That headline boosted Daily News' web traffic from Facebook by 24.18 percent.

During that same period, the Post's traffic fell by 11.44 percent.

Overall, the results showed a negative impact on right-leaning publishers.

The 12 most conservative sites saw their traffic from Facebook plummet by an average of 27.06 percent.

Nine of the 11 sites considered to be in the middle saw their traffic go up. NBC saw the greatest increase at 45.29 percent while CBS News and The Atlantic both dropped.

The greatest traffic decrease was IJR. It's traffic crashed by 76.49 percent.

Whereas, CNN's traffic jumped by 43.78 percent.

Why did Facebook make the change?

Last month, former NBC and CNN anchor Campbell Brown, head of Facebook's news partnerships team, spoke at the Recode Code Media conference and revealed that Facebook would be censoring its newsfeed based on its own internal biases, Techradar reported.

"This is not about us stepping back from news. This is about us changing our relationship with publishers and emphasizing something that Facebook has never done before," Brown said. "It's having a point of view, and it's leaning into quality news."

Facebook denies that the change has anything to do with political or ideological bias.

"We are, for the first time in the history of Facebook, taking a step to try to define what quality news looks like and give that a boost so that, overall, there's less competition from news," she continued. "I think we would agree that not all news is created equal, and this is a big step for us to begin thinking about that."

What's the big deal?

The effect of this change, whether its intentional or not, the Journal noted, could result in long-term or permanent damage to conservative publishers who rely on the world's largest social media site driving traffic to their websites for revenue.

Decreased revenue could lead to layoffs and/or closures for publishers that lean more to the right. It could also swing voters in future political elections.

How was the analysis conducted?

The Western Journal chose 50 publishers that receive a high amount of traffic from Facebook. It included print, digital and broadcast news outlets.

Each was assigned a number between 0 and 100 based on the third party website Media Bias/Fact Check News. Media Bias uses a strict methodology to determine the biases of news publishers, according to its website.

Western Journal compared Facebook traffic for January to traffic from February 4 through March 3, adjusted for the shorter period, for each of the 50 sources using SimilarWeb, a global digital market intelligence company.

The algorithm change started rolling out Feb. 6, according to its data.

You can view the full data set here.

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