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Facebook to show more content from friends, less from publishers

12 January 2018, 12:11 | Ross Houston

Facebook testing local news section on its platform

Facebook testing local news section on its platform

Zuckerberg, in a post on Facebook, said the company will change the filter for the News Feed to prioritize what friends and family share, while reducing the amount of non-advertising content from publishers and brands, Reuters reports.

The company will elevate posts that ignite conversations and meaningful interactions between friends while demoting the many videos, news stories and business posts that users consume passively -without commenting and sharing.

What you see when you log on to Facebook will be changing soon-because Mark Zuckerberg wants to make sure "the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent".

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. Publishers, nonprofits, small business and many other groups rely on the social network to reach people, so de-emphasising their posts will most likely hurt them.

"We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren't just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being", Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. "We need to refocus the system".

The 33-year-old chief executive said that the move, which will badly affect many publishers and could hit Facebook's own bottom line, was meant to renew the social network's focus on bringing people together after users complained that commercial posts were crowding out personal moments.

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That's news shareholders may not want to hear, but Zuckerberg said he believes the changes will be mutually beneficial in the long run for Facebook's two billion users and its bottom line. The company has long pushed users to spend more time on the social network. His vow followed a year that saw Facebook come under sharp criticism for contributing to a climate of extreme political polarization, the distribution of fake news and escalating privacy concerns. The changes are part of Facebook's redesign to increase "meaningful interactions" and reduce "passive consumption of low-quality content-even if it decreases some of our engagement metrics in the short term".

"It should encourage meaningful interactions between people", Mr Zuckerberg said.

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".

Pressure has been building on Facebook and its CEO as the toxic content flowing through Facebook - violent live videos, fabricated news articles and divisive messages from Russian operatives to influence the 2016 USA presidential campaign - has been blamed for ripping holes in the social fabric. "On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos - even if they're entertaining or informative - may not be as good".

Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management at Facebook, who is responsible for running the News Feed, acknowledged that "there will be anxiety" from partners and publishers who often complain about the constant changes in what will be shown across the network. Recently a blog post titled "Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us" sparked some debates. "You pick a friend for lots of different reasons", he said.

"The balance of what's in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do - help us connect with each other".



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