Folha de S.Paulo, Brazil’s largest and most influential newspaper, decided to rebel against Facebook(FB 186,99 +1,46 +0,79%) by ceasing to publish content on its page, which has almost 6 million followers. The move, announced in a Feb. 8 editorial, may be unprecedented for a major news outlet page with such a large following.
In addition to its main Facebook page, Folha has Facebook pages for individual sections of the newspaper that boast an additional 2.2 million followers. Folha does not plan to delete its Facebook pages, but says they will no longer be updated. The last post on the page’s timeline is the article announcing its exit.
Folha says it will continue updating its accounts on Twitter (with 6.2 million followers), Instagram (727,000 followers) and LinkedIn (726,000 followers).
Reasons for the move
Folha attributed the decision primarily primarily to Facebook’s recent change to users’ newsfeed, which aims to reduce the amount of content posted by Facebook pages, instead favoring posts by friends and family. The editorial announcing the move says:
[The current newsfeed] underscores the tendency of the user to consume content with which they have affinity, favoring the creation of opinion bubbles and the spread of fake news.
But the editorial adds that Facebook had lost prominence among its distribution platforms even before the tech company announced its algorithm change. Folha conducted a study analyzing interactions in 51 Facebook pages from professional media outlets and 21 from “fake or sensational news” sites, finding that users’ interactions with the former dropped by 17% from October to December 2017, while interactions with the latter rose by 61% in the same period.
Still, Folha executive editor Sérgio D’Ávila said in an interview with The Guardian that Facebook’s algorithm change was “the deciding factor”:
In effectively banning professional journalism from its pages in favor of personal content and opening space for “fake news” to proliferate, Facebook became inhospitable terrain for those who want to offer quality content like ours.
Unease over “fake news” and misinformation looms large in Brazil ahead of the March 2018 presidential elections. This will be the first ballot following the controversial impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party in 2016.
In early December 2017, Brazil’s government established a committee to monitor and possibly order the blocking of false news reports on social media ahead of the 2018 presidential elections. The news has raised concerns about censorship among the public.
Facebook users react with derision
The Facebook post announcing Folha‘s move currently has almost 5,000 comments. Most commenters expressed joy over Folha‘s departure from the social media platform, and some even took credit for helping chase Folha away in terms that highlight how the newspaper is caught in the crossfire of Brazil’s culture wars.
Andre Branzani, author of the top comment with almost 4,000 likes, said:
Thank you, Folha. Your articles were always a disservice to Brazil.
Alves Rodrigo, author of the second most liked comment, suggested that Folha walked away from Facebook because it couldn’t take criticism from users like him:
Just because you take a beating in the comments with each leftist propaganda piece you publish?
Still, Folha had its supporters, such as Alexandre Furtado Scarpelli Ferreira, who advised the newspaper:
Pay no mind! Everything is leftist to some people! It’s turning into a disease!