Facebook will change its algorithms in order to “make users happier.” But, not surprising, these changes are designed to make us share even more information about ourselves.
Facebook has announced that it is changing its algorithms. Professionally created material from news outlets, brands and companies will lose its significance in the eyes of the new code. Instead, enhanced priority will be given to personal posts: pictures from your life, updates about your whereabouts and thoughts. The social media giant, which now has more than two billion monthly active users, has said that the changes are made to make people happier and their social media use more meaningful.
Studies have shown, according to Facebook, that social media usage is good for its users when they connect with people they care about. When they don’t, it can be harmful. Therefore, the company will promote original posts, posts that users themselves are behind.
The newsfeeds will look different with less news articles, less professional videos, less website links. So-called organic content, what you write yourself that promotes interaction between users will be favored by the tweaked algorithms. The same goes for posts from members of Facebook groups. The focus on groups has already begun as a way to create a stronger sense of community, but will be further advanced with the new changes.
Recently, Facebook started experimenting with algorithms in six countries: Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Bolivia, Cambodia, Serbia and Slovakia, by removing everything but personal posts and paid posts from the newsfeed and putting them in a separate “explore feed”.
Public posts from media organizations’ Facebook pages belonged to the category of posts that was removed from the regular feed. Reports of catastrophic results didn’t take long, and many fear severe consequences for democracy itself.
“The Facebook explore tab killed 66% of our traffic. Just destroyed it … years of really hard work were just swept away,” says Dina Fernandez, a journalist and member of the editorial board at Guatemalan news site Soy502 to The Guardian. “It has been catastrophic, and I am very, very worried.”
The change will bring Facebook benefits, according to some. The new ways of the algorithms are seen by some as the company’s way to answer to criticism against Facebook for being a breeding ground for and amplifier of fake news. Others claim the exact opposite. Using the outcome in the six countries above mentioned as an example, people claim that sensationalist fake news will flourish in an environment where what private people share is prioritized over legitimate businesses.
What is pretty obvious is that the move from the social media giant is of an economic art. It is disguised as being in the best interest of the users, but it is clearly just another step along the way that every major business walk: the one to make money. Professionally made content will still be able to make its way up the feed – by paying its way up.
But that’s not the primary way that Facebook makes its money – Facebook’s real value lies in everything the company knows, in all the data it has about its users. For a while now Facebook has been displaying concern over the decline in people posting about themselves and their own lives. Instead, people are sharing more of already made content like links to news sites or music videos.
That is what these changes are about.
The more people see other people sharing from their own lives, the more likely they are to share about themselves. The tweaked algorithms will promote personal content, or “organic shares,” as it they’re called, which will lead to enhanced sharing and even more organic content. Facebook is trying to get the spiral of decreased privacy concerns spinning, and the database with information about us to grow.
These changes are not made to make our lives better. They are made so that Facebook can know our lives better.
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