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Facebook updates News Feed to make friends a priority

12 January 2018
Facebook updates News Feed to make friends a priority

Facebook's News Partnerships team is leading the experiment, using both human curation and machine learning to fuel the content found in the "Today In" section. One of the big criticisms of Facebook in the past 18 months is that the content we see in the newsfeed is driven too much by Facebook's obsession with persuading people to spend as much time as possible on Facebook. He acknowledged that many of Facebook's more than 2 billion monthly active users had expressed frustration over the amount of third-party content they were seeing as they scrolled through their feeds. Company CEO Mark Zuckerberg detailed these plans in a long post.

The company says that's similar to how people make friends and interact with each other offline. He pointed to conversations around television shows or news as ones that can start worthwhile discussions.

"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. These changes started to a certain degree a year ago, and they will increase in the following months, the ultimate goal being that Facebook wants to "encourage meaningful interactions between people".

Zuckerberg also noted that overall time spent on Facebook will likely decrease as a result of this change.

"I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down".

Facebook also came under fire in 2017 for its role in creating "echo chambers" in which people are only exposed to content that reaffirms their beliefs, as well as for providing a platform for "fake news" content. The social network did little to stop the spread of Russian propaganda during the 2016 presidential election, for example. Users can set their preferences to see more content from their page follows, but this will not be the default setting with the new rollout.

The social media giant is also planning changes in how it handles video - giving priority to those that users engage with and playing down those that generate views by automatically playing when seen in a person's feed.

More specifically, Mosseri warned that publishers, brands and businesses who used "engagement-bait" to drive comments would be targeted and demoted in the news feed.

It's understood this will be in addition to local news that already appears in Facebook's News Feed and on publishers' pages.

Facebook is testing a new section within its app featuring local news and information about local events. There will be fewer videos, which Facebook considers "passive".

"Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years" Zuckerberg writes.