Over the last few years, Facebook faced negative criticisms about how the social media influence people’s lives. Thus, Facebook announced that they will introduce changes to the posts that billions of users see on the News Feed. The social media giant said they will prioritize what family and friends share and comment, and focus less on content from brands and publishers.
In the coming few weeks, users will see fewer viral posts and news articles from companies when they log into Facebook. Instead, posts from friends and families that they have interacted with will be seen more often. For instance, a photo of their dog or a status update that has more likes and comments will be featured more often in the News Feed.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, this step is towards maximizing “meaningful interaction” that people get on Facebook. Zuckerberg said that the social network company had studied the kind of posts that stressed and harmed the users. Facebook aims to reduce what Mr. Zuckerberg called “passive content”, which oftentimes demand them to more than just sit back, watch or read — so the users’ time on Facebook will be well-spent.
“We want to make sure that our products are not just fun, but are good for people,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “We need to refocus the system.”
Facebook’s announcement raised questions about whether people will see more posts that reinforce their own ideologies if they frequently see posts from friends and families who have similar views. Furthermore, fake news may still spread when a relative or a friend shares it on the site, and gets more comments and likes.
The ultimate goal of the overhaul, however, is something less quantifiable, but perhaps difficult to achieve: Facebook wants the users to feel more positive than negative after visiting the site.
“When people are engaging with people they’re close to, it’s more meaningful, more fulfilling,” said David Ginsberg, director of research at Facebook. “It’s good for your well-being.”
The social network has been under fire for months due to the posts that negatively affected the users. Facebook has been questioned if its algorithms prioritize misleading news and information to show in the Newsfeed, which influenced 2016 American presidential election as well as political discourse in different parts of the world. Just last year, Facebook admitted that Russian agents used the site to spread divisive and inflammatory posts, as well as ads to polarize the American electorate.
Facebook faced lawmakers who grilled the company about its influence. Along with Twitter and YouTube, the social network giant appeared at a hearing on Capitol Hill regarding the online spread of extremist propaganda.
Facebook’s Newsfeed overhaul will land a wide impact. Many publishers, nonprofits, small business and other groups rely on Facebook to reach their audience. Thus, de-emphasizing posts from these people will likely hurt. Vice president of Facebook’s product management, and the one responsible for running the News Feed, knows that “there will be anxiety” among the publishers who often complain about the changes that happen around the social network.
The shift may take a toll on Facebook’s business interest, too. When less viral posts resurface more often, people may end up spending a fewer time on the network. Contrasting Facebook’s aim to push the users spend more time on the site. However, Mr. Zuckerberg said, Facebook expects it to happen, but if people will feel better after visiting the network, the business will still surely benefit.
Changes in the News Feed aren’t something new. In fact, the Silicon Valley has been experimenting with what shows up in the News Feed, and has said that it would prioritize what friends and families post. However, Facebook’s announcement goes beyond the previous changes, which caused massive reactions. For instance, a post from a relative with more comments will be prioritized over a video that has fewer comments or interactions between people.
Facebook has worked with outside academics, and conducted researches for months to examine its effect on people. It caused criticisms from politicians, academics, the media and others saying, Facebook didn’t adequately consider their responsibility when it comes to what they show to users.
For instance, Mr. Zuckerberg initially shrugged off the issues about Facebook’s effect on the 2016 election, when fake news and stories about Hillary Clinton proliferated. Eventually, Zuckerberg admitted that he had been dismissive and hasty of the concerns. Recently, he showed signals about Facebook rethinking on what it offers to people.
Just this January, Mr. Zuckerberg shared a Facebook post regarding his goals for 2018, including “making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent” and adding that “this will be a serious year of self-improvement and I’m looking forward to learning from working to fix our issues together.”
On the day of the announcement, Zuckerberg mentioned that due to the discussions regarding Facebook’s responsibilities, the company prompted “to get a better handle on some of the negative things that could happen in the system.”
“Just because a tool can be used for good and bad, that doesn’t make the tool bad — it just means you need to understand what the negative is so that you can mitigate it,” he said.
Facebook and other researchers focus on the passive content. Surveys conducted among Facebook users said that the site had shifted far away from the families’ and friends’ content. The swell of the outside posts from brands, publishers and media companies plays a big role in this shift.
“This big wave of public content has really made us reflect: What are we really here to do?” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “If what we’re here to do is help people build relationships, then we need to adjust.”
The company is now focusing on this new approach. Mr. Zuckerberg said that product managers are being asked to “facilitate the most meaningful interactions between people,” different from the former mandate to prioritize meaningful content.
Mr. Zuckerberg shared that his views on the way Facebook runs changed since the birth of his daughters, Maxima and August. He said, he had contemplated on his views and the Facebook’s legacy, even if it can affect the company for awhile.
“It’s important to me that when Max and August grow up that they feel like what their father built was good for the world,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.
Check out this video that takes a closer look at the algorithm and how you can stay successful in light of this recent Facebook change :