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Image: JOSH EDELSON/Getty

The new News Feed is here, but you’d be forgiven for not having noticed. 

To hear Mark Zuckerberg tell it, the last several months have brought significant changes to the way Facebook ranks content on its News Feed. The CEO announced in January that his company would soon start prioritizing “high quality” and local news in users’ feeds, with the hope that so-called fake news on the platform could be, if not eliminated, then reduced. 

And yet, despite what was categorized by the company as sweeping updates, the state of the News Feed remains just as rotten as always: Fake news still thrives, and that old Facebook favorite Fox News is king once again. 

Meanwhile, the one thing that has undeniably changed for news publishers is engagement. It’s down, meaning people are interacting less with information shared by media brands.

These depressing nuggets of truth were brought to us by the social-media analytics company NewsWhip, which took a look at the state of the News Feed as of April and found that the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Specifically, according to NewsWhip and highlighted by New York Times reporter Kevin Roose, Foxnews.com was the top publisher on Facebook in April. This was “based on total engagements (likes, comments, shares, and reactions) on web-based content published that month.”

While this was up from March, when Fox News ranked behind CNN.com and NBC.com, it’s a return to earlier in the year when Fox News sat above CNN.

It’s difficult to tease out just what exactly drove this decrease and subsequent increase in relative engagement for Fox News. After all, Facebook made several changes to its News Feed ranking algorithm over the past several months. One such change, also announced in January, would supposedly favor “news from local sources.” 

Could this be contributing to Fox News’s present ranking? Possibly, especially when considering the reach of the company’s affiliates. 

The algorithm changes haven’t really succeeding in snuffing out fake news 

“Fox’s return to the top spot on the platform,” explains NewsWhip, “is based on the engagement with its huge network of regional and national news sites, publishing over 47,000 stories in April alone.” 

But more important than whether people are clicking Fox links over CNN links is the status of false news on the Facebook platform. Once again, prepare yourself for some deja vu. NewsWhip found that the algorithm changes haven’t really succeeding in snuffing out fake news. 

“Despite efforts to combat the spread of disinformation,” the NewsWhip report notes, “fake news stories still reach the tops of the most shared stories lists.”

In other words, despite the host of changes supposedly made to the News Feed, fake news still has a place and Fox News remains king.

So what, if anything, has changed since the algorithm tweaks? That would be overall engagement — it’s down across the board. NewsWhip found that “practically all of the top 25 sites saw decreases in engagement in April.”

Which, well, is certainly one way for Facebook to try and address its ongoing problems. Because if you’re Mark Zuckerberg and you can’t accurately separate the fake news from the real, reducing engagement across the board might just have to do — even if it screws legitimate publishers in the process.  

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