This article mentions that they turned the news feed off but people were still hiding posts from pages they don't follow, which friends had commented on. These shouldn't appear in a news feed that is not curated as they are not following that page, and is one of the things people are complaining about in the algorithm.
They didn't test the algorithm vs no algorithm, they tested the current algorithm vs another algorithm.
When Facebook started changing their timeline and messing up the chronological order of posts it had a really strange effect on reality. Old news stories and posts were showing up for many months late, and they were reminding people about their pets that died years before as well, many people have forgotten that.
The best option would be to abandon the ideal that one single news feed is best for everyone and give control back to users along with an option for a truly chronological time line. Thy should also make multiple pages that rank posts based on taxonomy that users can browse content that is most liked by everyone on the platform.
The only reason why Facebook wants to be able to have singular time lines is so that they can push targeted ads without it becoming obvious to their user base, but if the taxonomy pages were titled and organized properly, the ads would be somewhat more relevant by nature, and not require them to invade everyone's privacy like they have been doing thus far.
I should HOPE "meaningful social interactions" go down with a reverse-chron, friends-only feed.
Yes, it is confusing when they say they "turned off the algorithm" because what it sounds like is they are still using an algorithm here, just a far worse version of one, maybe an earlier version of the algorithm.
But if posts are "rising to the top" and "they saw double the amount of posts from public pages they don’t follow, often because friends commented on those pages". This still sounds like an algorithm is ranking posts, just in a "worse" way.
Removing the algorithm to me would mean seeing posts in a reverse-chronological order as they happened. Everything would appear equally. Maybe some controls are given to users to hide certain types of items, such as 2nd degree pages (pages your friends follow and comment on, but you do not follow), group posts, and so on.
But as soon as you re-order posts, you are using an algorithm. It is very disingenuous to claim you removed an algorithm when all you really did was replace it with a worse algorithm. Then justify your actions because the worse algorithm performed worse (wow shocking i know).
I think the results would be somewhat similar although, because group activity will still dominate. Knowing a place like FB although, they probably tried all the combinations to see what happened. I'm curious what those results are too.
Simple reverse chronological order feed with no ranking.
All they did was get rid of the ranking, but that's only part of the issue.
But that's not what Facebook wants, so that's not what we get.
Holy cow do FB just shove a bunch of shit into the feed.
Twitter also implemented a timer so that, if you choose simple reverse chron, it forces you back into the ranking algorithm after a certain period of time.
Hmm, I wonder why they'd go to the trouble to do that? Maybe these social networks have motivations that override user experience?
The misdirection term here is 'news feed ranking algorithm'... and what that means in the experiment versus what you might think that means, huge difference. e.g. I think most would assume the algorithm is responsible for showing you an unknown post that a friend merely liked, but it's right there in the article as still happening.
The results and how people used it don't at all say to me that they enjoyed it less, it shows explicit care & intention to curate their own feed by hiding what they don't like.. which is how it should be. If they find the group posts too overwhelming, they can mute/unfollow/leave, or other methods of grouping posts can be explored.
But look, they did this one bad science experiment, and now it's taken as fact and becomes folklore.
When it comes to Facebook it always feels like I'm being steered towards topics that yield monetizable verbiage. If a friend likes an upcoming concert I'll definitely hear about it loud and clear - while as an upcoming picnic or personal project being planned is less likely to float to the top.
Facebook kept trying to sell me an Oculus Quest weeks after I had already bought one ("look at the metrics! 95% of people who saw the ad also bought the headset", "you're reading the graph backwards").
To me, it lays bare the myth of advertising analytics. All this data, all this tracking, and none of it is actually all that useful for the stated purpose. Makes one wonder if it's really all for fleecing advertisers or if it's to keep totalitarian regimes happy.
I do think that at some point YT, FB and everyone else (google even!) will have to reckon with radicalization - but I still think that YT's recommendations are quite a bit more valuable than FB.
Yes, I'm familiar with the relevant studies.
It's easy to tell that it's happening because you will see obscure, random news/opinions channels with high view counts. Something you can only get when you at some point have been promoted by Youtube.
There is no doubt I watched that. Nor is there any doubt that it impacted my recommendations.
The question is, what is the likelihood of it having radicalized me into believing this? Is Youtube successfully recruiting people to genuinely believe birds aren't real/aliens/etc. on a wide scale? I do not believe that is the case. I'm not claiming it has zero impact on this. I'm saying I'm skeptical that the scale is meaningful, especially compared to legacy media.
What I know to be certain is that traditional/legacy/corporate media is constantly and successfully recruiting people into believing conspiracy theories on a broad scale like Iraq had WMDs and Trump was a Russian asset. And yet there is not serious talk about how the corporate media is "infamous for getting people radicalized."
So, now it's feeding me incel videos. Maybe this just is giving me more info than I want about people who play board games. But wow, Google.
I’ve been fed all kinds of UFO and other strange videos by YT myself.
How many people watched Youtube videos and were radicalized into believing in flat earth, aliens, etc?
Compare that to how many people watched legacy media and were radicalized into believing that Iraq had nukes and Trump was a Russian agent?
I think the algorithm has figured out that if it can get people into JP, there's a chance they go down into more extreme rabbit holes and thus become super-engaged. So it's worth it for the algorithm to keep trying to push JP even on people who don't seem interested at first.
Click the "..." on the recommendation and choose "Not Interested" - optionally you can specify you don't like the video.
I think it's the other way round. When people interview Jordan Peterson, they use pre-prepared phrases to and ascribe to him opinions and views he doesn't hold. e.g. the infamous Cathy Newman interview, "So what you're saying is".
This doesn't always happen e.g. the debate between Russell Brand and Jordan Peterson.
I don't think there would have been nearly such a controversy around his work, if he had not touched on the pronoun issue, which was about compelled speech, not even particularly about pronouns.
However that issue is a bit of a hornet's nest, and Peterson is by no means alone for being targeted, as also seen in the UK with Professor Kathleen Stock.
I subscribe to a number of mainstream, local news feeds as well as our government's daily COVID updates. And ocassionally I will do a Google search for random terms. And yet somehow at least a few times a week I will be recommended some obscure news source often indeed with conspiracy or some ultra-right wing edge.
I very much sympathise with the challenge that Facebook's data scientists have to deal with. Incredible hard problem to solve.
 Never mind the more obvious problem that "people prefer it" is not a great excuse for intentionally makinga product as addictive as possible.
What evidence would that be?
I don't think having to actively force a feature on your audience is a good sign that they prefer it.
Facebook and instagram are social phase locked loops. Open a new instagram account, search for content that you like, like them, then what how it shove more/similar stuff into your feed.
Now pivot to a different subject, only like that, and watch how your feed moves to that subject more.
its not really rocket science, or indeed anything overly complex.
They could have made the algorithm so it showed users brand new different material, or opposing material, or more details, or related material from friends instead of corporations, or from people geographically nearby, or chronological, or let users find their own material and/or build their own feeds.
Instead of any of that they show them similar material, like you said, effectively putting everyone in echo chambers.
The top comment mentions people hiding posts from pages they don't follow - alternatively, that's called showing brand new content you haven't seen before.
Opposing material suggests a binary, sure that makes some sense in a US centric political spectrum, but what's the opposing viewpoint to my friends photo from hiking last weekend?
Geographically nearby could mean my neighbor 5 doors down who I don't know anything about and am not friends with. Do you think, if she were a privacy-concerned individual like many people on HN are, she'd be happy to know I saw her post about her new flowers?
It's less narrative control and more human condition - if anything I'm glad they tried this experiment. Chronological feeds are how you end up with news teams spamming posts every three minutes, and you having to hit the hide button every time.
These were people who had already been sorted into echo chambers. Turning off the algorithm sent data to them they had already learned to hide. I'd be interested to see how this same experiment fared with completely new user. Maybe we'll run across a new tribe in the Amazon or something so we can try this out.
They do this anyway.
Or you just stop following the spammy ones
People don't want Facebook to be a chore.
Brand new, yes, facebook is biased to new stuff. Its just there is a high incentive to repost old shit, because spammers know its effective.
Opposing material? no, that requires comprehensive understanding of the context of the share, the content of the material and the target audience's overton window.
> let users find their own material and/or build their own feeds.
virtually nobody does this, or indeed wants to do it. What's more its very rare that anyone is any good at it (hence why people don't subscribe to news wire services)
also, the research emphatically underscores this. People hunt more, and are less engaged. its more effort.
I’m just trying to piece together the evolution of Facebook, feeds, and then when I stopped caring. Like, I don’t think the feed was always like this. At one point there was nothing, sure, but there was also at one point a reverse chronically sorted log of what your friends were doing I think? That was the best. By the time my parents were on I think there was a few years of overlap before I just forgot about it.
The major difference is what people are posting, and how tangentially related to your network, the posts on your newsfeed are.
Back then celebrities and news media weren't part of the platform, so you didn't really have these major intersections in the graph. I also believe that you had to re-share in order to push a post into a node that isn't directly connected to the posts author. Today a like is enough.
The reason why facebook is uncool now, is a mix between who the active users are, and how much room and focus facebook puts on links to newssite and posts by people who aren't your friends.
This is why Facebook/IG is unrecoverable to me as a destination for connecting with the people I care about. Instead, it's become iMessage and I'm quite happy about that. No ads and the conversations/photos are a lot more authentic compared with social media.
I still love social media as a form (I think), it's just become more media and less social.
Facebook's decline, for me was not due to the feed being algorithmic. I think it got better around that time; showing original content from people I like to interact with first is a positive experience. What's not positive is showing me most things other than original content from my friends.
I'm not sure why the change happened, but at some point it did. Most of what I see posted on Facebook now is not original content from my friends. I mostly don't want to see third-party content. The share button was there long before I noticed this trend, but people are using it a lot more. I just went and cataloged 50 algorithmically-chosen posts. Here's the distribution:
Shared third-party post or link: 24
Original text: 9
Original image: 9
Directly-posted image of third-party content: 3
Promotion of a physical product by a page I follow: 2
Promotion of media by a page I follow: 2
Promoting own event: 1
At least that would explain why a video that some friend of a friend watched 3 days ago is suddenly at the top of my newsfeed.
Shared third-party content: 16
Original text: 5
Promoting own event: 4
Original image/video: 11
Directly-posted image of third-party content: 0
Page promoting product: 1
Page promoting media: 5
Group activity: 8
What would really make Facebook better for me is an algorithm that prefers original content. It might not be enough if that was something I could enable myself because what gets interaction from others affects what people post.
I wonder why it didn't happen in 2012. I remember ACA arguments on Facebook but while they were contentious, they were generally value-driven and not based off of batshit lies.
It was probably 2016 by the time that politicians realised they could use social media to whip up such strong feelings to maybe benefit their campaigns.
People certainly disagreed with each other online in 2012 (I remember reddit had subreddits dedicated to complaining about how much pro Ron Paul content was posted in the mainstream subreddits), but I think it's the active engagement of the politicians themselves that turbo charged this.
Both candidates in 2012 went out of their way to maintain civility to each other publicly. I think when a candidate treats their opponent with respect, the followers tend to follow mostly in suit, but if they don't, it kind of just opens the floodgates, and once that happens, there's no going back.
When George W. Bush was running for governor of Texas against Ann Richards in the late 90s (before anyone but us was on the internet), Karl Rove distributed printed pamphlets, particularly in churches in East Texas among evangelicals, talking about her secret lesbian lover. She's not a lesbian.
And of course when Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 she invented (or paid someone else to invent, more accurately) this ridiculous Russian conspiracy narrative that persists because press outlets affiliated with her party continue to amplify it.
In 2000, the aforementioned GW Bush's party had the chief justice of the SCOTUS (who incidentally got that job despite living in an AZ neighborhood back in the 60s deed restricted to whites only and organizing a sort of election day mob that would physically confront non-white voters standing in line to vote) stop counting ballots to ensure that Bush won.
Before Reagan appointed Rehnquist chief justice, when he was campaigning against Carter in 1979/80, he was giving speeches at notorious lynching sites around the former confederate states and talking about the "oppression of the IRS" (this was shortly after the IRS had stripped Bob Jones University of its non-profit status during Carter's tenure for refusing to admit black students).
Civility is anomaly, not the trend.
I'm all for criticizing Facebook for what Facebook does wrong but it's just a mirror, it doesn't have any original content on it. The same can be said of political candidates. If their message lacks resonance with what would-be voters believe already, no one will repeat it.
On Quora, I just turned off that feature. Almost every single message I got was "hi", from somebody who was trying to either sell me crypto or catfish me.
Maybe there's a period when a new open messaging system opens you up to just fun new people, but when it grows, spammers and scammers will follow. Glad you enjoyed Facebook before everybody got to enjoy Facebook, but most people never saw it like that.
Do you not have a phone number that anyone can call? Or an e-mail address that anyone can send to? Or have you used a platform like IRC that allows users anyone to send you direct messages?
> Glad you enjoyed Facebook before everybody got to enjoy Facebook, but most people never saw it like that
Facebook messenger isn't overrun by spammers. I've only used the messenger a handful of times but IIRC it wasn't hard to tell the difference between messages from friends and requests from people I wasn't friends with.
Spam detection also isn't terribly difficult at scale. Spammers need to message thousands or more accounts to even have a chance at converting someone, which is so far away from the normal use patterns of a real user that it's easy to flag.
I am pleased with the state of spam detection for things that implement it. Google does a good job, both on my phone (Pixel) and my email. Quora does not, and I resent it; it makes the site worse, so I turned it off.
If Facebook were letting strangers talk to me, I'd probably stop using it.
Facebook should allow you to go filter and show posts using a calendar.
Like all post from X date to Y date, from this location / friends. It will actually improve usage.
Miss the old photo sharing days.
The problem is that if Facebook implemented this site wide engagement would drop dramatically. No one really posts to Facebook anymore, people love it when you do, because it's actually kinda novel.
Facebook doesn't actually hide things when you make them show none from X. I see many of those things after I hide all them.
so whilst in theory it sounds good, in practice, not so much
While transparency and control of the "ranking algorithm" is important, I reject the implication that infiniscroll content feed is the best that social media can ever be.
Facebook (and others) have decided that discovery, chores, social upkeep, political activism, learning etc all belong in One Big Recommendation System. This is entirely new territory from a psychological perspective: Throughout history, humans have focused largely on one mental task at a time. You don't read Dostoevsky while having a drink with your friends, or answer emails while watching TV. Mental multitasking quickly converges on the low effort/instant gratification task. Add your favorite attention disorder to amplify this problem to the point of surrender.
Any meaningful alternative needs to account for these psychological biases. Although this is new territory, we've been through this before - with porn. Basically, if you mix porn with other content, then porn becomes predominant. Hence, any non-porn platform needs to ban porn. Reddit is an interesting counter-example, because their subreddit barriers work pretty damn well, so even though there is porn on the platform, it hasn't infected everything else.
Similar to the porn issue, we'll never extinguish celebrity clickbait, conspiracy theories and racist uncle posting memes. However, we might be able to partition it. How about designing tech which makes it POSSIBLE to avoid "crap", at least temporarily, without an outright boycott, careful curation or browser extensions?
People wants to read the stuff they are interested in. No algorithm is forcing people to watch fox news for instance.
That being said, FB should give the option to disable the news feed algorithm (or to have several version to choose from maybe), if that makes people happy.
I think a mistake is thinking of people as static sets of tastes and interests. No one is going to be fed news that are a big deviation from their current worldview, but small deltas pile up over time.
FB should explore these options more. It sounds like there has to be more done here than just turning off the smart feed entirely.
It's common when interacting with an engagement loop to experience a loss of agency (perceived, at least). People don't like that feeling, even when they like the content they are being shown.
Machines can be built to exploit odd elements of human psychology. I strongly recommend the book Addiction by Design.
Engagement loops, like the other things you listed, are not inherently "good" or "evil". What organizations use them for may be good or evil, but that's a separate discussion.
Like all of the other decentralized social media platforms that most people just don't care about? I'd argue that social media has become so polarized that, no matter their views, most people will want some sort of centralized body setting rules that act in their (the user's) interests.
>... and doesn't rely on advertising money.
People have widely adopted social media because they're not charged anything (aside from their privacy being invaded) to use it. How is such a platform staying online without charging users or using advertiser money?
Not sure it's possible. Only if you (or your friend) are the admin, you will like the rules.
> How is such a platform staying online without charging users or using advertiser money?
It's much more secure and reliable (long-term) to have a sustainable small server for friends than to rely on a huge anti-user for-profit company. One could also create a paid service. For example, I am using a paid email-provider.
Even if it’s as low as $1 a month, you’re not gonna get average users to join a new social media platform in the name of politics.
People want to connect with their friends, that’s all they ever wanted out of these sites.
Although it’s not always as intuitive as email. IRC could’ve extended into something like Discord had it not been so programmer centric.
Either way, these people have us by the balls over already established syndication capabilities like RSS, just weighted in their direction(s).
Mastodon (Activity Pub) is basically the open standard you are looking for here.
With enough man power, you can recreate anything, but without a strong userbase, well...
And don't even get me started on a name like "Mastodon", lol.
You might be thinking of the GDPR's Right to Data Portability which includes "the right to transmit those data to another controller ... by automated means".
This should require Facebook to synch the posts you make on their website to another account you hold on a Fediverse node, but unfortunately it doesn't require Facebook to synch content that you can see (but didn't produce) from their website to that node.
The resources required to provide the world with the valuable parts of these services are small enough to be funded through non-profits or benefit corporations. I'd gladly donate my time and money to a 501c3 facebook killer.
Platforms that eschew psychological manipulation don't grow as large. That is the proverbial cat.
People are exchanging time for money. They will do this.
"Meaningful Social Interactions — the back and forth comments between friends that Facebook optimizes for."
Not very interesting without understanding these algorithms. "Integrity pass" seems a good marketing name, but, at least this article, does not explain how it works.
It would be like reviewing the Boing 737 Max and only knowing MCAS as "that thingy that makes the plane easy to fly" instead of http://www.b737.org.uk/mcas.htm
The obvious conclusion one can draw is that the product is primarily engineered to control users' information intake, and only secondarily to make money.
> Otherwise please use the original title, unless it is misleading or linkbait; don't editorialize.
Edit: I don't mind being downvoted, but I would really like to know why that's the case so I can improve how I contribute to the forum.