Facebook announced its plan to alter users’ news feeds yet again Tuesday in a move that will allegedly provide “the right mix of updates” from friends and news pages.
In a post entitled, “News Feed FYI: Balancing Content from Friends and Pages,” Facebook Product Manager Max Eulenstein and User Experience Researcher Lauren Scissors lay out how “media content” will be altered under the site’s newest algorithm.
“Media content is a key part of the experience for people on Facebook and we’re committed to helping publishers find the right audience for their content,” the article states. “The goal of News Feed is to show you the content that matters to you.”
Instead of allowing users to view all requested content, Facebook has long limited personal news feeds, a move the social media-giant calls an improvement and continual balancing act.
“As more people and pages are sharing more content, we need to keep improving News Feed to get this balance right,” the authors write.
A mere footnote at the end of the article also admits that the new change could negatively affect a page’s reach.
“In some cases, post reach and referral traffic could potentially decline,” the article says.
While Facebook hails the new algorithm as a step forward, many users and journalists alike are taking the company’s history into consideration.
Facebook tweaked its algorithm for news orgs. Everyone cross your fingers your site isn’t destroyed this time around! http://t.co/9CzUw305TN
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) April 21, 2015
Earlier this month in an article for the Columbia Journalism Review, Freedom of the Press Foundation Executive Director Trevor Timm criticized Facebook’s growing power over online news.
“What this discussion has missed is perhaps the most crucial element of Facebook’s new power: the right to choose between the free expression of ideas or to instead impose censorship when it deems content unworthy,” Timm noted in light of Facebook’s proposed partnership with news outlets such as Buzzfeed. “That should worry the public, because when given that power in the past, Facebook has ruled with an iron fist.”
In fact, reports find that even as Facebook increases its control over users, many are completely unaware of the manipulation altogether.
“Facebook is extremely meticulous about what content the public should see,” Timm adds. “Close watchers of the social media site know that most of the time you only see around 6 percent of what your friends post. For organizations who want their followers to see their posts, it’s even less.”
“How will its algorithms handle stories posted directly to Facebook that question Facebook’s monopoly status? How will it handle news organizations questioning its lobbying ties with the government? ”
Aside from its ever-changing algorithm, its blatant censorship at the request of repressive regimes and Mark Zuckerberg’s recent meeting with China’s censorship czar, Facebook has implemented other crippling features aimed at media organizations.
Just last January the company announced that it would begin clamping down on “hoaxes” by allowing users to flag “fake new stories.” A closer look at the new option reveals that social media posts can be flagged for a multitude of reasons, unrelated to a story’s legitimacy, including, whether it “offended” people.
As Facebook further colludes with government entities including the White House and NSA, the future of information freedom worldwide remains in doubt.