By Jenn Kelley on Nov 13, 2018 2:36:00 PM
With Facebook being home to over 2.20 Billion monthly active users as of Q1 2018, there is bound to be some inconsistencies between what is considered “fake news” and what is not. Facebook’s algorithm has been tweaked many times over since launching in February 2004, with filters that have made marketers and news publishers jump for joy. Unfortunately, Facebook was the center the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2017 where 87 Million Facebook user’s data was found to be improperly harvested for use in influencing American political voter opinions pertaining to the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Well, Facebook is back at it again with new tweaks to their algorithm that will influence an entirely new direction for how news publications and users will engage with news sources posted on the social site.
The Facebook Algorithm
After experiencing the public backlash from the Cambridge Analytica scandal’s effect on the 2016 Presidential Election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to Capitol Hill in April 2018 to talk to federal judges. There, Zuckerberg focused on touting the recent IT security measures that Facebook had been taking to protect sensitive user information via changes to the site’s News Feed algorithm. The changes that were implemented focused on the prioritization of local news sources over national news as a means of promoting users’ mental health. Through these changes, Facebook is combatting the spread of misinformation via fake news by allowing legitimate local news sources real estate on users’ News Feeds.
Algorithm Effect on News Publications
This might be the start of a slow demise for smaller news publications that lean on Facebook to amass their viewership. Before these changes took effect, publishers would distribute their content on Facebook where the platform’s algorithms directed the content to users who are most likely to show interest in the topic and more likely to engage with the post in their News Feed. With 67% of U.S. adults being active on Facebook and 47% of them receiving their news via Facebook, it is clear that these new algorithm changes will have drastic effects on how news publications use the social site for online advertising and how user behavior changes.
In the months since the algorithm changes went into effect, many media companies have been forced to drastically change their digital advertising strategies to the point where they might need to jump ship completely to salvage their businesses. The news publication, Slate, disclosed recently that their site traffic had declined 81%, losing out on nearly 15 million page views from May 2017 to May 2018 as a direct result of the changes to the Facebook algorithm. Slate’s drastic decline seems to be a microcosm of most mid-tier media companies (nothing to see here, NY Times and Huffington Post).
Algorithm Effect on User Behavior
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg told users that he “Expects the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down, but also expects the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.” Facebook is currently experimenting with users in six foreign countries on whether to build out a separate “Explore Feed” that contains only media sources while keeping Newsfeeds restricted to posts pertaining to content from friends and family.
Will these changes ultimately bring people closer together to have more meaningful experiences or is this one step closer to allowing users to reinforce their own unique ideological bubbles on social media? Let us know your thoughts!