The Facebook experiment that's rocking Serbia [The Interface]

Revue
 
In issue 11 of this newsletter, I told you about Facebook's move to imagine a News Feed free of news.
 

The Interface

November 15 · Issue #28 · View online
An evening newsletter about Facebook, social networks, and democracy.

In issue 11 of this newsletter, I told you about Facebook’s move to imagine a News Feed free of news. As the Guardian reported then:
A new system being trialled in six countries including Slovakia, Serbia and Sri Lanka sees almost all non-promoted posts shifted over to a secondary feed, leaving the main feed focused entirely on original content from friends, and adverts.
Today a Serbian journalist named Stevan Dojcinovic (it’s pronounced just the way it’s spelled) told us how that is going, in the New York Times:
My country, Serbia, has become an unwilling laboratory for Facebook’s experiments on user behavior — and the independent, nonprofit investigative journalism organization where I am the editor in chief is one of the unfortunate lab rats.
Last month, I noticed that our stories had stopped appearing on Facebook as usual. I was stunned. Our largest single source of traffic, accounting for more than half of our monthly page views, had been crippled.
As Dojcinovic notes, “Even one extra click can make a world of difference.” 
This is an existential threat, not only to my organization and others like it but also to the ability of citizens in all of the countries subject to Facebook’s experimentation to discover the truth about their societies and their leaders.
On one hand, there’s no way to test a news-free News Feed without removing the news from it. On the other hand, it’s not clear how Facebook users in Serbia benefit from an experiment like this one, which has the effect of downplaying disturbing developments in their country at the possible cost of their democracy. 
I understand how some users could read Dojcinovic’s post and see typical media whingeing. But as he notes, Serbia’s democracy is very young, not totally formed, and under threat from the current ruling party. If Facebook is determined to run experiments like this one, it might have at least considered a better laboratory.

Democracy
Twitter will remove verification badges from accounts that break rules
Russia used hundreds of fake accounts to tweet about Brexit, data shows
Google Critic Thiel Gave Money to Official Probing Search Giant
Elsewhere
Facebook full of illegal opioid marketing
YouTube videos of children are plagued by sexual comments
Launches
Facebook teen-in-residence defects to Google and launches “Lies”
Takes
Snapchat’s New Test: Grow Like Facebook, Without the Baggage - The New York Times
Do we even know what "premium content" is?
And finally ...
George Takei's Facebook empire strains under sexual assault allegations
Talk to me
Questions? Story ideas? Requests for a verified badge? casey@theverge.com 
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Carefully curated by Casey Newton with Revue.
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