Facebook says its research shows that users are exposed to more divergent views on its platform than they would be otherwise, but that's hard to verify independently since the company is cautious about providing data to outsiders. Over the next few weeks, users will begin seeing fewer viral videos and news articles posted by media companies.
Tweaking users' feeds may cause the social media platform to lose some of its luster for content producers or media companies, especially video makers that can not make money on Facebook regardless of how many of their videos go viral, said Cho Sodam, founder of Dotface, a youth-oriented media startup based in Seoul, South Korea.
The changes are meant to maximize the amount of content with "meaningful interaction" that people consume on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, the company's chief executive, said in an interview. His vow followed a year that saw Facebook come under sharp criticism for contributing to a climate of extreme political polarisation, the distribution of fake news and escalating privacy concerns.
Currently, News Feed has been created to share a mix of "public" content from brands along with posts by friends and family.
The jury is still out on how seeing mostly exuberant posts from friends and family affects people over time. If Mark Zuckerberg is truly anxious about his legacy and that of Facebook, casting legitimate news publishers and businesses into the abyss will only further tarnish an image that is already deeply damaged.
In a move with major impact on its users and on brands, Facebook said Thursday it is changing algorithm for the News Feed to de-emphasize posts or what it calls "public content-posts from businesses, brands and media" publishers.
How do Facebook's planned news feed changes affect me?
Facebook has been under fire for months over what it shows people and whether its site has negatively influenced millions of its users.
RBC Capital Markets said lower user engagement with the site may provide a "headwind to growth in the near-term", but the changes will be "helpful for the long-term health of the business".
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Thursday's changes raise questions of whether people may end up seeing more content that reinforces their own ideologies if they end up frequently interacting with posts and videos that reflect the similar views of their friends or family.
"We want to make sure that our products are not just fun but are good for people", Zuckerberg said. "The publishing industry has been notoriously slow to adapt to the rapid and constant changes brought about by social media platforms", he said. The hope is that posts by people over companies will foster community, commenting, sharing and interaction. Zuckerberg already signaled this would happen late previous year, when he said the company's planned investments in preventing abuse would hurt profitability.
Zuckerberg initially scoffed at the suggestion Facebook had been used as a Russian propaganda tool, before acknowledging that mistakes had been made and promising to do better in 2018. "They don't think there are any real cracks in the Facebook story".
Last week, Zuckerberg posted on Facebook about 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".
"And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard - it should encourage meaningful interactions between people".
"Facebook is already experiencing declines in consumption and the company is responding with these changes today", Wieser said.
"No matter how well we do on Facebook and how great our videos are, making high-quality videos itself does not bring us any profit", said Cho. The move may help Facebook stem a drop-off in "organic" posts - the kind that Facebook is now trying to highlight - that's been a problem for the network for years.
"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", Zuckerberg said.