Facebook to reveal news feed secrets

Marketing Co-ordinator, Rhian Morgan

Early May saw announcements from Facebook about news feed changes. Crunch’s Marketing Co-ordinator, Rhian Morgan looked into these changes and has simplified what it actually means in advertising terms.

Social media giant Facebook has launched a new feature which will explain to users how the algorithms decide what will be displayed on their own newsfeeds. Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have faced criticism in the past for using algorithms to recommend content without explaining to users how they work.

Why am I seeing this post?

The “Why am I seeing this post?” will allow users to understand greater why they are seeing posts and also have more control of what they see from friends, pages and groups in their newsfeed. They have built information on how ranking works directly into the app.

This feature will be a first for Facebook which will give users the access to insights directly on their accounts. Users will be able to access details about why they are seeing the posts and get the context of why they’re appearing and to further personalise the content. Currently, it is available for some users in the UK and rolled out nationally on 2nd May 2019.

Why am I seeing this ad?

They are also making improvements to the feature “Why am I seeing this ad?” which they launched in 2014.  Users will be able to see factors like basic demographic details, interest and website visits, all of which contribute to the ads. The update will include additional details about the advertisement when the information on an advertiser’s lists matches the user’s profile.

Facebook explained in a press release, how individuals felt that transparency into the News Feed algorithms weren’t strong enough without corresponding controls. Individuals wanted to have control of what appeared on their newsfeed. The feedback has also allowed Facebook to determine what information users felt was valuable to highlight.

This feature will allow users to see the following:

  • Why they see a certain post in their News Feed — for example if the post is from a friend they made, a group they joined, or a page they followed.
  • What information generally has the largest influence over the order of posts, including: (a) how often they interact with posts from people, Pages or Groups; (b) how often they interact with a specific type of post, for example, videos, photos or links; and (c) the popularity of the posts shared by the people, Pages and Groups they follow.
  • Shortcuts to controls, such as See First, Unfollow, News Feed Preferences and Privacy Shortcuts which will help users to personalise their News Feed.

Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerburg has called for government regulation surrounding controlling internet content. He has asked for the following to be implemented; 

  • Common rules that all social media sites would adhere to which would be enforced by third-party bodies to control the spread of harmful content.
  • For all major technology companies to release a transparency report every three months which would put it on par with their financial reporting.
  • He has called for stronger laws around the world to protect the integrity of elections, with common standards for all websites to identify political actors.
  • Laws that not only apply to candidates and elections, but also other “divisive political issues”, and for laws to apply outside of official campaign periods
  • A new industry-wide standard to control how political campaigns use data to target voters online
  • More countries to adopt privacy laws such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • A “common global framework” which would mean laws are standardised globally rather than being substantially different from country to country.
  • Clear rules about who’s responsible for protecting people’s data when they move it from one service to another.

This could potentially change the social media landscape should other platforms follow suit and allow users to personalise their feed to their own taste. Allowing users to see why certain advertisements and posts appear on their feed will give greater control and responsibility to users to manage what they see on their feed and it can be adapted to what they wish to see. Through urging other platforms to become more transparent as are Facebook, they are pushing the boundaries of the landscape of how social media will become more transparent which may appeal to users.

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