Thursday, 18 January 2018
News Tech

Facebook edits feeds to bring less news, more sharing


NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook is changing what its users will see to
highlight posts users are most likely to engage with and make
time spent on social media more “meaningful.”

By cutting back on items that Facebook users tend to passively
consume, the change could hurt news organizations and other
businesses that rely on Facebook to share their content.

The idea is to help users to connect with people they care about,
not make them feel depressed and isolated.

“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with
people we care about, it can be good for our well-being,”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post Thursday.

“We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates
with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other
hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if
they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”

There will be fewer posts from brands, pages and media companies
and more from people. There will be fewer videos, which Facebook
considers “passive.” People will likely spend less time on
Facebook as a result, the company says.

That’s because even if people read such content on Facebook, they
don’t necessarily comment or interact with it in other ways.

The move to highlight posts that Facebook considers “meaningful”
and reduce the emphasis on others could shrink the social media
giant’s role as a major news source for many people.

“It’s in the same direction that Facebook has been pursuing for a
while: offering a place for discussion among individuals, a
community space, rather than being a news source,” said Oh Se-uk,
a senior researcher on digital news at the Korea Press
Foundation.

“It wants people who have been friends to become even closer, to
have deeper discussions (on Facebook). Traffic to news media’s
websites via Facebook will likely fall,” he said.

The move will not affect advertisements — users will continue to
see the same ads they have before, “meaningful” or not. But
businesses that use Facebook to connect with their customers
without paying for ads will also feel the pain.

Facebook has long been criticized for creating “filter bubbles,”
the echo chambers of friends and like-minded people whose views
are reinforced by their friends’ posts on the platform.

The company says that’s similar to how people make friends and
interact with each other offline. Facebook says its research
shows that users are exposed to more divergent views on its
platform than they would be otherwise.

This is difficult to verify independently since the company is
cautious about providing data to outsiders.

Oh, the researcher at Korea Press Foundation, said it was too
early to say whether the latest measure would reinforce
Facebook’s “filter bubble” effect or not. “We won’t know until we
see what happens.”

The changes come after a tough year for Facebook that included
congressional hearings on how Russia used it to influence the
2016 U.S. elections. Former executives and Facebook investors
have spoken out about how it and other social media sites might
be hurting rather than helping society and users’ psyches.

Last week, Zuckerberg said his “personal challenge” for 2018
(something he’s done every year since 2009), will be to fix
Facebook.

“Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our
community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by
nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time
well spent,” he wrote.

He said it wasn’t possible to prevent all mistakes or abuses, but
that Facebook was making too many errors in enforcing its
policies and preventing misuse.

___

AP Technology Writer Youkyung Lee in Seoul, South Korea,
contributed to this story.



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