Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveils sweeping changes to News Feed

Cesar Mills
January 12, 2018

Facebook's algorithm - think of that as a complex digital recipe for deciding what shows in each person's News Feed - will now prioritize posts from friends and family that "spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people".

Facebook is to change how its news feed works, making posts from businesses, brands and media less prominent. According to the research students who passively consume 10 minutes of News Feed content reported feeling worse at the end of the day.

Prioritizing family and friends against Publishers and Brands will hurt them as they get most of traffic through Facebook. In fact only a month ago Facebook announced how it plans to put a clamp on engagement-bait spam posts. With different, less viral types of content surfacing more often, people could spend more time elsewhere.

The head of Facebook's News Feed, Adam Mosseri, wrote in December on Twitter that the company was ready to "focus on how we can make Facebook more about interacting with people and less about spending time".

Another wave of criticism pummeling Facebook: that the company's products exploit vulnerabilities in human psychology to hook people on social media, hijacking their time and attention and undermining their well-being.

That marks a tectonic shift for Facebook's algorithm which has been built to prioritize engagement (and monopolizing users' attention) above nearly all other considerations.

Facebook has said before that it will emphasize personal connections over business pages and celebrities that people follow. But Thursday's shift goes beyond previous changes by prioritising posts that spur substantive interactions between people.

What's unclear is whether the changes could perpetuate an echo chamber effect, assuming users are more likely to interact with posts that reinforce their beliefs.

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On Thursday, he said numerous discussions about Facebook's responsibilities had prompted the company "to get a better handle on some of the negative things that could happen in the system".

"This big wave of public content has really made us reflect: What are we really here to do?"

Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said his annual challenge for the year is to "fix" some of the problems that have spread on Facebook, like hate and abuse.

In a lengthy post on Facebook, Zuckerberg wrote: "We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us".

Zuckerberg, the company's 33-year-old co-founder, said that would no longer be the goal.

"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.

Zuckerberg added that his way of running Facebook has shifted since the birth of his two daughters, Maxima and August, in recent years. In November, Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, took aim at Facebook in an interview with Axios, saying he and other executives created a "social-validation feedback loop" to make Facebook psychologically addictive.

Other reports by GizPress

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