LEDE: The biggest news in media circles today was that Facebook is going to increase the prominence of what your friends and family share in your News Feed.
That's bad news for media outlets and the viral publishers who have used Facebook to rapidly grow their audiences. "Overall, we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages," wrote Facebook's Lars Backstrom. "The specific impact on your Page's distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience. For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts."
The company says it hopes that the change will give users what they want. More broadly it reflects the way Facebook has changed in the decade since it was launched on Harvard's campus. "When we launched News Feed in 2006, it was hard to imagine the challenge we now face: far too much information for any one person to consume. In the decade since, more than a billion people have joined Facebook, and today they share a flood of stories every day," said exec Adam Mosseri. The changes will go live in the coming weeks.
CASH STILL RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME: There's still a way for media outlets to keep the traffic: pay for it. Facebook's updates only affect organic posts, not those that are promoted by publishers.
MEANWHILE, FB ASSERTS NEWS FEED'S NEUTRALITY: The company also released what they're calling "News Feed Values." Essentially, it's the principles that Facebook says guides development on the product. Among them is "A Platform for All Ideas." Read: We won't downplay content because it represents a certain ideological viewpoint. The social networking giant took fire in recent months over allegations that human editors systematically buried stories and sources popular with conservatives in the Trending Topics module, which the company has denied repeatedly.
REVERSE AUCTION BIDDING COMES TO A CLOSE: Bidding in the broadcaster portion of the Federal Communications Commission's incentive auction ended on Wednesday. In total, the commission is set to pay out over $86 billion (to be exact, $86,422,558,704) to broadcast stations willing to vacate their channels, share space or move elsewhere. But to make that work, they have to make at least that much -- plus some, to cover other costs -- during the forward sale to wireless providers. "Broadcasters have done our part; now it's up to the wireless industry to demonstrate the demand is there for low-band TV spectrum," said the National Association of Broadcasters' Dennis Wharton. There's a procedure in place if wireless demand isn't high enough to support the current clearing cost.
COMMERCE CLEARS TELECOM, RESEARCH BILLS: The Senate Commerce approved the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act and the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act, as well as the research-related American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, at a markup on Wednesday morning. Pulled from the agenda was The Kelsey Smith Act, which makes it easier for law enforcement to get location data from telecommunications, over privacy concerns. Thune has said he still hopes to mark it up. Full markup results here.
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SURVEY LOOKS AT ONLINE REPORTER HARASSMENT: The Anti-Defamation League is polling journalists about the "source and severity" of online harassment aimed at reporters on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The group said its task force is focusing on the "anti-Semitic, racist and other harassment of journalists, commentators and others on social media." New York Times Editor Jon Weisman recently decided to stop using Twitter because of the constant barrage of abuse and Twitter's inability to properly police it.
SPOTIFY JUMPS ON APPLE MUSIC CRITICISM: After Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFederal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE's antitrust speech that called out Apple, Amazon and Google, one Apple music rival was happy to comment. Spotify's head of communications Jonathan Prince, in a statement to Recode, reiterated its complaints: "Apple has long used its control of iOS to squash competition in music, driving up the prices of its competitors, inappropriately forbidding us from telling our customers about lower prices, and giving itself unfair advantages across its platform through everything from the lock screen to Siri. You know there's something wrong when Apple makes more off a Spotify subscription than it does off an Apple Music subscription and doesn't share any of that with the music industry. They want to have their cake and eat everyone else's too."
HILLARY OFFERS FREE SNACKS TO SILICON VALLEY RECRUITS: A "shameless recruiting event" on Thursday night in San Francisco gives potential campaign recruits the opportunity to meet CTO Steph Hannon. She promised free noshes and drinks.
BLUNT FIRST TO USE FACEBOOK AD FEATURE: Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE's (R-Mo.) reelection campaign is the first to use an "immersive" ad feature from Facebook called Canvas, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The ads take up your whole screen, according to marketing materials, and can feature videos, photos and a button letting viewers take action.
At 10 a.m., the Open Technology Institute will hold a talk on government hacking.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) on Wednesday laid into a handful of major U.S. technology companies, saying they are examples of concentrated corporate power that can thwart competition.
A Belgian appeals court has overturned an earlier ruling that said Facebook must stop tracking users in the country or face a $277,000 daily fine.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the government over a law it says hampers research into online discrimination.
The House Homeland Security Committee released a report on encryption policy that endorsed the idea of establishing a formal commission to study the topic.
Facebook on Wednesday sought to reassure users that its signature homepage News Feed doesn't favor some political viewpoints over others.
The websites of 19 House Democrats were knocked offline by hackers in an attack that coincided with the formal end to the sit-in over gun control.