- Facebook Updates Trending Topics To Limit Fake News
In another push to improve the scope and quality of news users see on Facebook, the company unveiled several updates to its prominent “Trending” topics feature on Wednesday.
Prior to Wednesday’s update, users saw about a dozen trending topics based on many factors such as their personal interests and which articles were getting the most buzz on the social network. Now, trending topics will no longer be personalized, and every user in the same region will see identical topics. And instead of creating a trending topic based on high engagement around a single post or article, which may not be a widely relevant, quality story, Facebook is now weighing the number of publishers posting articles about the same topic and the engagement around the group of articles as a whole.
Facebook is also giving users more context on trending topics by displaying a publisher’s headline alongside a topic. Before Wednesday, users could only see a short topic title and needed to hover over the topic to see a headline.
The changes begin rolling out this week and will be available to all U.S. users in the coming weeks, Facebook said.
Facebook VP of product management Will Cathcart said in a blog post that the changes should improve the company’s ability to highlight a broader range of news and events from around the world, ensure that trending topics “reflect real world events being covered by multiple news outlets” and refresh topics more quickly.
“This is designed to help make sure people don’t miss important topics being discussed on Facebook that might not show up in their News Feed,” Cathcart said.
Facebook said the headline addition was the most requested Trending update among users since the company last updated the feature in August. Facebook said headlines will be automatically selected based on factors such as the engagement around a specific article on Facebook, interactions with the publisher as a whole and whether other stories link to the article, which should help ensure the article is reliable.
After coming under intense scrutiny after the U.S. presidential election around its handling of fake and hoax news on the social network, Facebook has taken a series of steps to make it easier for users to consume quality news on Facebook, promote news literacy on and off its site and to build a better relationship with publishers. Most recently, Facebook unveiled a new program called the “Facebook Journalism Project” with three main goals: Work with journalists to build storytelling tools and monetization options, offer more training to journalists on how to use Facebook as a resource and partner with third parties such as the News Literacy Project to produce a series of ads to help inform the public.
The Drop in US Crude Oil Inventories Boosted Oil Prices on Wednesday
Crude oil prices rose on Wednesday following a decline in US crude inventories last week.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) had reported that United States crude oil inventories declined by 5.3 million barrels in the week ended January 22, 2021, more than a reduction of 430,000 barrels predicted by a Reuters poll.
The unexpected decline, coupled with slowing new COVID-19 cases in China, the world’s largest importer of crude oil, boosted oil prices on Wednesday.
Brent crude, against which Nigerian crude oil is measured, rose by 41 cents or 0.7 percent to $56.32 per barrel.
The U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil also gained 56 cents or 1 percent to $53.17 a barrel.
“WTI is slightly firmer on the back of a larger-than-expected draw in US crude inventories reported by the API, which is offset by builds in gasoline and distillates,” said Vandana Hari, oil market analyst at Vanda Insights.
The data, however, showed petrol inventories grew by 3.1 million barrels in the week, more than experts projected.
Similarly, API data revealed that distillate fuel inventories that include diesel and heating oil, jumped by 1.4 million barrels, far higher than the 361,000 barrels decline predicted. However, refinery runs declined by 76,000 barrels per day.
“Market participants are now in ‘wait and see’ mode, wanting to see how lockdowns evolve in the coming weeks and months, and how successful countries are in rolling out Covid-19 vaccines,” ING economics said in a note.
COVID-19 Plunges Nigeria’s Oil Revenue by 41% in the First Nine Months of 2020
Nigeria’s oil revenue declined by 41.44 percent in the first nine months of 2020 to $2.033 billion, according to the latest data from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
This represents a decline of 41.44 percent from $3.47 billion filed in the same period of 2019 when there was no COVID-19.
In the September 2020 edition of NNPC’s Monthly Financial and Operations Report (MFOR), revenue from oil and gas rose by 16 percent to $120.49 million in the month of September, a 66 percent or $234.81 million drop from $355.3 million posted in the same month of 2019.
The global lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic plunged Nigeria’s crude oil sales and global demand for the commodity. This was further compounded by Nigeria’s high cost of production compared to Saudi Arabia, Russia and others that were offering discounts to boost sales during one of the most challenging periods in human history.
Experts like Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, President of Nigeria Association of Energy Economics, NAEE, were not surprised with the drop in earnings given the effect of COVID-19 on the world’s economy.
She, however, called for the revamp of the nation’s petroleum sector laws and diversification of the economy away from oil revenue dependence. She said “Covid-19 made 2020 a very hot year and it battered the oil industry internationally and we are not an exception; so we could not have been unaffected”.
She also said the effect of the fall “is definitely a wake-up call; we have to diversify, strengthen our other resources and capabilities”.
Omorogbe, a former NNPC Board Secretary, urged the government and the operators in the sector to look inward and think strategically, stating: “think medium term, think of where they want to be and the government, above all, must think of how best we can utilize our resources, so that we can achieve our objectives once we know and define them.
“It is a clear wake-up call, if not we will just sit here and find that we have become one of the poorest nations in the world”, she noted.
Crude Oil, Other Commodities Closing Price for Monday
Brent crude oil, Nigeria’s crude oil benchmark, gained 47 cents to $55.88 per barrel on Monday, while the US crude oil expanded by 50 cents to $52.77 per barrel.
Gold for February delivery fell $1 to $1,855.20 an ounce. Silver for March delivery fell 7 cents to $25.48 an ounce and March copper was little changed at $3.63 a pound.
The dollar fell to 103.80 Japanese yen from 103.83 yen. The euro fell to $1.2139 from $1.2167.
Wholesale gasoline for February delivery rose 1 cent to $1.56 a gallon. February heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.59 a gallon. February natural gas rose 16 cents to $2.60 per 1,000 cubic feet.
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