Facebook opens up about what you see on your News Feed

Steven Loeb · June 29, 2016 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/464a

The company will be pushing more content from friends and family, rather than from pages

Facebook has been doing a lot to clean up, and fine tune, the News Feed over the last few years. It got rid of spam, targeted click-bait headlines, pushed up "high quality content," and even let users pick what they wanted to go to the top. All to give users better, more relevant posts.

What people really want, though, is to see content from friends and family, rather than publishers. That makes sense, as most people sign up for the service hoping to connect with other people, rather than pages. So, that's what Facebook is says it's going to give us.

"We’ve heard from our community that people are still worried about missing important updates from the friends they care about. For people with many connections this is particularly important, as there are a lot of stories for them to see each day," Lars Backstrom, Engineering Director at Facebook, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.

"So we are updating News Feed over the coming weeks so that the things posted by the friends you care about are higher up in your News Feed."

This is not the first time that Facebook has tried something like this. In April of last year, it made a similar statement, but apparently people still felt as though they weren't seeing the kind of content they wanted to see. 

News Feed Values

Obviously, a move like this could have a big impact on referral traffic for certain pages, but Facebook doesn't seem worried about that. In fact, giving users more content from friends and family fits right into the company's New Feed Values, which it also published for the first time on Wednesday.

"Our success is built on getting people the stories that matter to them most. If you could look through thousands of stories every day and choose the 10 that were most important to you, which would they be? The answer should be your News Feed. It is subjective, personal, and unique — and defines the spirit of what we hope to achieve," Adam Mosseri, VP of Product Management, wrote.

There are five values that the company highlighted: 

  • Friends and family come first

This is what the Facebook was talking about in its earlier post. Also included under this directive are two other ethos: that the News Feed "should inform" and that it "should entertain."

"People expect the stories in their feed to be meaningful to them — and we have learned over time that people value stories that they consider informative," the company said.

"We’ve also found that people enjoy their feeds as a source of entertainment. For some people, that’s following a celebrity or athlete; for others it’s watching Live videos and sharing funny photos with their friends. We work hard to try to understand and predict what posts on Facebook you find entertaining to make sure you don’t miss out on those."

  • A platform for all ideas

This is an interesting one for Facebook, considering what it's been dealing with lately. In fact, in light of being accused of political bias, it actualy starts to sound a little defensive when the company says it is "not in the business of picking which issues the world should read about."

"We are in the business of connecting people and ideas — and matching people with the stories they find most meaningful. Our integrity depends on being inclusive of all perspectives and view points, and using ranking to connect people with the stories and sources they find the most meaningful and engaging," said Mosseri.

Actually, the need to not seem biased is likely the impetus for writing this document in the first place (we'll touch on that more later).

  • Authentic communication

This means giving people stories that they consider to be "genuine." That's kind of a vague term, but it seems to mean not giving people news that's fake, or spam.

A lot of people now get their news directly from Facebook, so it's nice to see the company taking the role seriously. 

  • You control your experience

Users have the ability to control what they see and don't see. That means unfollowing people, or putting certain people as "see first." Sure, Facebook will use its algorithm to give someone what it thinks they want, but that person can also take things into their own hands.

Personally, I take it out of theur hands altogether, and set it to see the newest stuff first, but that's just me. 

  • Constant iteration

From Facebook's point of view, the company will never really be done tweaking and changing the way they determine what we see on our feeds. At least Facebook says it will always try to explain why it makes the changes it does, which ties into the big question: why publish this now?

A more transparent Facebook?

News Feed has been around for a decade, so why is it all of the sudden giving users more insight into how it picks what they see? The most obvious answer is that Facebook has come under attack for an apparently lack of transparency over the content that it gives to its users.

Last month it was was accused, by a former contractor, of routinely preventing stories from conservative news outlets from appearing in its "Trending Topics" sidebar due to political bias. 

The company denied any wrongdoing, and tried to smooth things over, even going so far as to force its employees to take a class on getting rid of political bias.

As they say, though, sunshine is the best antidote, so the best thing Facebook's can is to be as open and transparent as possible.

(Image source: startofhappiness.com)

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