IT has been a month since Facebook founder and top executive Mark Zuckerberg promised to battle fake news by changing the algorithm to the user’s news feed.
The algorithm change would result in the downgrading of news in your “news feed,” a list of public posts and updates on your own Facebook home page. What will get prioritized in the new news feed will be what friends and family share. Zuckerberg said he wants to bring back the original purpose of Facebook which is to be a social platform for connecting with schoolmates, friends and family.
As Facebook News Feed team head Adam Mosseri said, “Showing more posts from friends and family means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”
With this change, Larry Kim, in his article on www.inc.com, said that time spent on Facebook would be valuable, instead of the mindless scrolling that happens. Users who have started getting tired of their news feed will have relief from all those posts. Kim said Zuckerberg wanted to “save” Facebook as users get turned off by serious, sometimes senseless, and negative posts.
Analysts say it was Zuckerberg’s way to fight fake news and to answer criticism that the social media platform was a party to disinformation campaigns that impacted on elections and political developments in several countries. Zuckerberg has insisted that Facebook is only a platform and not a media company but he has admitted to the need for it to be a “force for good in democracy.”
There is no study yet on the impact of the algorithm change to Philippine websites or to Facebook accounts of those who have been tagged as purveyors of fake news from different political spectrums. There have been online comments about losing followers or engagement on Facebook for some of these accounts but nothing has been measured so far.
At this point, a month after Zuckerberg announced the news feed algorithm change, cyber bullying and fake news are still around and continue to pockmark news feeds.
This is because Zuckerberg’s algorithm change is not enough to battle fake news. Instead of improving the quality of discussion, the Facebook change encourages the creation of echo chambers where people get to see or read only items they want or agree with and not view posts that encourage deliberation, thought and exchange. People in the same group and of like mind talk about things they are comfortable with, about people and events, but not about ideas. Fake news can spread within the person’s circle of friends. Fake remains as fake within the group. Where then is the public discourse that considers all sides and is essential to democracy and self-determination? Where is discernment and critical thinking?
What Zuckerberg did was to boost echo chambers and limit access to different voices.