17 January, 2018
Facebook says it is making major changes to its News Feed to show users less news and more posts from friends and family.
The changes were recently announced in a Facebook post by co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The intention is to create "more meaningful social interactions" for users. He said the company feels a responsibility "to make sure our services aren't just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being."The News Feed is a collection of posts that includes photos, updates and links from a user's family and friends. It can also show material from media companies and advertisements.
The social media service says it will start prioritizing posts from friends and family in News Feed. At the same time, it will reduce the amount of material coming from news publishers and companies.
The decision came after Facebook was criticized last year for not doing more to prevent false news stories from easily and quickly spreading. Two former Facebook officials also accused the company of creating products that have harmed society.
Facebook has been using computer algorithms to predict what material was most likely to be "liked," commented on or shared. But Zuckerberg said that will no longer be the company's goal.
He said Facebook product teams have been told to change their methods to get more personal posts to appear in News Feed. The change is aimed at creating more online connections between individuals.
Zuckerberg said that video, media and other public content had "exploded" on Facebook in recent years. This resulted in more public material being seen than personal posts in News Feed.
The latest decision was also based on the company's own research, Zuckerberg said. That research showed that when used in certain ways, Facebook can strengthen personal relationships and improve well-being and happiness.
Facebook said the research suggested that social media users who spent a lot of time only reading information – but not interacting with others – reported feeling worse afterward. Those who reported having interactions with others during the experience said it gave them better feelings.
Facebook said it cooperated with psychology and mental health experts on several studies that supported the findings.
Zuckerberg said even though he expects the changes to result in users spending less time on Facebook, he believes that time will be more valuable. "If we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term," he added.
Change affected media pages
The social media giant began running tests of News Feed changes in six smaller countries last year. In those tests, Facebook users were offered two separate feeds. One contained posts from friends and family, while the other included pages a user liked.
Several publications in test countries reported a major drop in website traffic due to the News Feed split. In Slovakia, journalist and social media manager Filip Struhárik wrote that the test change resulted in four times fewer social interactions on the country's biggest media pages.
Similar results were reported in Cambodia and Guatemala, according to social media data company CrowdTangle. The other test countries were Sri Lanka, Bolivia and Serbia.
Some social media experts have said that having fewer news publishers show up in News Feed will not solve the problem of false news spreading on Facebook. They warn the change could actually increase such reports, which can be posted by a user's family or friends and then shared widely.
The experts also believe it may now be more difficult for Facebook users to find links to reliable news and official sources.
I'm Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on material from the Associated Press, Reuters, Facebook and other sources. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
prioritize – v. to organize things so that the most important thing is done or dealt with first
algorithm – n. a set of steps that are followed in order to solve a mathematical problem or to complete a computer process
reliable – adj. able to be believed or likely to be true or correct