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On Monday, October 23, Facebook began testing a feature that resulted in a sharp drop in user engagement on the social media platform. In a major change that was tested on Monday, Facebook started to shift non-promoted publisher posts from its #News Feed. If this move comes into effect permanently, it would prove disastrous for publishers who rely on the social media platform for grabbing the attention of its audience base.

Facebook tests new feature in six countries

According to The Guardian, this new feature is currently being tested in six countries. These are Sri Lanka, Serbia, Slovakia, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Cambodia.

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All the publisher posts that were promoted on Facebook for free are now being segregated and shifted to a different secondary feed during the test. The original News Feed only has promoted posts from adverts and original posts from the user’s friends and family.

Following the application of this new change, Facebook saw a massive dip in user engagement numbers on its platform. Due to the segregation and shift of non-paid news, publications reported a 60% to 80% fall in engagement in the six countries where the feature is being tested. If this change is applied in all countries, then it would be harmful to not only small-sized publishers, but also larger companies who rely solely on social media for user engagement and visitor referrals.

Facebook clarifies its stance

Following the massive dip in user referrals in the six countries and extensive media coverage, in a blog post on October 23, Facebook clarified its stance on the newly-tested feature.

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In the blog post, Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s Head of News Feed, shared that currently, the social media platform has no plans of pushing the change further globally. Mosseri revealed that the decision to separate non-promoted posts over to a different feed on Facebook was taken to improve the space.

He disclosed that the aim of this test was to see if users preferred a distinct separate space for public, as well personal content. Mosseri stated that over time, Facebook users have expressed a desire to see posts from #Family And Friends more easily. Following this feedback, it decided to create a distinct space for non-promoted posts and keep the original News Feed exclusive to promoted adverts and content from family and friends. The new space where the non-promoted content will be put in is dubbed #Explore. Mosseri, however, clarified that at the moment, Facebook does not intend to take money from publishers to promote their content on the main News Feed. The feature is only being tested to see if it finds favor with users.