Facebook’s Unsettling Referendum on News

Charlie Warzel, writing for BuzzFeed:

This morning, Facebook VP of product management Adam Mosseri announced that the social network is tweaking its News Feed algorithm to show more stories from friends and family members — a move that indicates Facebook is worried professional publishers are crowding out the normal people in your life you care about. The decision, according to the post, is based on “research,” which is a way to say that Facebook has been listening to the myriad signals of the real people who use its platform each day.

Facebook doesn’t really care about the news industry. The idea that Facebook was going to “save” the news industry, or even that Facebook traffic is something that news organizations should bank on for the future, is just goofy. Facebook’s first goal is to keep users using Facebook — as many users as possible for as much time as possible. If videos of cats walking around on two legs are more popular than analyses of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the EU, well, that’s what they’re going to prioritize. Secondarily, Facebook’s goal is to monetize the aggregate attention from priority one. That’s it. So, going forward, news organizations are going to have to pay more for worse placement in Facebook news feeds.

You can call this unsettling if you want. I’d call it unsurprising.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016