Facebook to End News Feed Experiment in 6 Countries That Magnified Fake News

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook said it will end an experiment it ran in six countries in which it had separated news and other publishers from its main site, after independent news publishers said the changes had led to a rise in misinformation.

Adam Mosseri, who heads Facebook’s News Feed, said the social network was stopping the experiment — which was known as Explore — after receiving negative feedback from people in the countries where the program was taking place. The countries included Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Serbia.

“In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn’t actually help them connect more with friends and family,” said Mr. Mosseri. “We also received feedback that we made it harder for people in the test countries to access important information, and that we didn’t communicate the test clearly.”

Facebook’s decision to terminate Explore is an acknowledgment of a misstep, one of several that the company appears to have made recently. The social network has also been grappling with how it may have been a central tech vehicle for misinformation propagated by Russians ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook released Explore in the six countries in October 2017. It was quickly criticized by independent news sites and nongovernmental organizations for the changes; those groups said the shifts had made it harder for trusted sources of information to reach local populations. They also said that the experiment had led to an increase in false, and salacious news being shared within those countries.

Facebook has announced a series of changes to News Feed — the scrolling screen of content that greets people when they log into the social network — this year. The company has said that it is working to increase “meaningful interaction” on its site by drawing attention to content from family and friends while de-emphasizing content from brands and publishers.

Facebook has said those News Feed changes were not related to Explore, but there are similarities with all publishers removed from the main Facebook page.