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NEWS12 January 2018

Facebook to demote news and business posts in News Feed

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US – Facebook is to update its algorithm to show less content from media, brands and businesses within a user’s News Feed, in favour of posts by friends and family members.

According to a blog post from chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, the social network wants to prioritise ‘meaningful social interactions’ over content from publishers and businesses.

Citing research it has conducted in partnership with academics, he said: “The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos – even if they're entertaining or informative – may not be as good."

Zuckerberg said feedback from users is that public content is diluting the personal connections element of the site.

“Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, 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,” he wrote.

The changes to make public content less prominent began in 2017, and will continue to be rolled out this year. Users will see less posts from businesses, brands and media, and public content that is shown within News Feed will need to fit the same criteria as private posts: it should “encourage meaningful interactions between people”, as seen in the tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports.

To do this, Facebook will predict which posts users want to interact with their friends about, and make these more prominent within the feed, a separate blog post from the company outlined. 

In the past year, Facebook has faced criticism over its role in the spread of fake news and misinformation, appearing at US congressional hearings alongside Google and Twitter about Russia’s interference with the US presidential election. A former executive has also spoken out about the negative influence of social media on people’s wellbeing.

The update will impact publishers, who in recent years have increasingly relied on News Feed to distribute their content.

Zuckerberg acknowledged the change will most likely mean people spending less time on Facebook and that “some measures of engagement will go down”.

He said: “If we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”