Facebook CEO unveils news feed changes, says engagement may fall

Gwen Vasquez
January 12, 2018

The first changes will appear in the News Feed, where you'll start to see more posts from your friends, family and groups.

The goal of the overhaul, ultimately, is for something less quantifiable that may be hard to achieve: Facebook wants people to feel positive, rather than negative, after visiting.

Facebook is changing its news feed, which will now prioritise posts from friends and family, and show fewer posts from publishers or businesses.

News Feed is the centerpiece of the social network. The move is widely expected to hurt publishers that rely on traffic from Facebook. In fact only a month ago Facebook announced how it plans to put a clamp on engagement-bait spam posts.

He cited recent research by Facebook and academics indicating that time spent "passively" on social media was damaging for people's mental health, while interacting proactively with friends was positive.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained that a focus for the company in 2018 is making sure the time people spend on Facebook is time well spent.

What's unclear is whether the changes could perpetuate an echo chamber effect, assuming users are more likely to interact with posts that reinforce their beliefs.

Another wave of criticism pummeling Facebook: that the company's products exploit vulnerabilities in human psychology to hook people on social media, hijacking their time and attention and undermining their well-being. A long comment on a family member's photo, for instance, might be highlighted in the News Feed above a video with fewer comments or fewer interactions between people.

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"At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections". Last year, lawmakers berated Facebook, Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Twitter Inc. for failing to prevent Russian manipulation on their platforms during the 2016 US presidential election.

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

While the move was anticipated, Thursday's announcement filled in more of the details.

Facebook and other researchers have particularly homed in on passive content. "You pick a friend for lots of different reasons", he said. Zuckerberg said. "If what we're here to do is help people build relationships, then we need to adjust".

Zuckerberg, the company's 33-year-old co-founder, said that would no longer be the goal.

Zuckerberg has been laying the groundwork for making that fundamental shift in all of Facebook's products. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos - even if they're entertaining or informative - may not be as good, Zuckerberg said.

The changes are meant to maximize the amount of content with "meaningful interaction" that people consume on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, the company's chief executive, said in an interview. In November, Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, took aim at Facebook in an interview with Axios, saying he and other executives created a "social-validation feedback loop" to make Facebook psychologically addictive.

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