Facebook edits feeds to bring less news, more sharing

Facebook shares dropped more than 5 per cent to $177.31 in premarket trading after change unveiled

Facebook is changing what its users will see to highlight posts they are most likely to engage with and make time spent on social media more “meaningful.”

By cutting back on items that Facebook users tend to passively consume, the change could hurt news organizations and other businesses that rely on Facebook to share their content.

The idea is to help users to connect with people they care about, not make them feel depressed and isolated.

“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post Thursday.

“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.”

Shares of Facebook slid more than 5 per cent to $177.31 in premarket trading Friday after the change was unveiled.

Under the revised regime, there will be fewer posts from brands, pages and media companies and more from people. There will be fewer videos, which Facebook considers “passive.” People will likely spend less time on Facebook as a result, the company says.

That’s because even if people read such content on Facebook, they don’t necessarily comment or interact with it in other ways.

But Facebook gave scant details about how it would define what’s “meaningful.”

The changes could shrink the social media giant’s role as a major news source for many people.

“It’s in the same direction that Facebook has been pursuing for a while: offering a place for discussion among individuals, a community space, rather than being a news source,” said Oh Se-uk, a senior researcher on digital news at the Korea Press Foundation.

“It wants people who have been friends to become even closer, to have deeper discussions (on Facebook). Traffic to news media’s websites via Facebook will likely fall,” he said.

The move will not affect advertisements — users will continue to see the same ads they have before, “meaningful” or not. But businesses that use Facebook to connect with their customers without paying for ads will also feel the pain.

Facebook has long been criticized for creating “filter bubbles,” the echo chambers of friends and like-minded people whose views are reinforced by their friends’ posts on the platform.

The company says that’s similar to how people make friends and interact with each other offline. Facebook says its research shows that users are exposed to more divergent views on its platform than they would be otherwise, but that’s hard to verify independently since the company is cautious about providing data to outsiders.

Oh, the researcher at Korea Press Foundation, said it was too early to say whether the latest measure would reinforce Facebook’s “filter bubble” effect or not. “We won’t know until we see what happens.”

The changes come after a tough year for Facebook that included congressional hearings on how Russia used it to influence the 2016 U.S. elections. Former executives and Facebook investors have spoken out about how it and other social media sites might be hurting rather than helping society and users’ psyches.

Last week, Zuckerberg said his “personal challenge” for 2018 (something he’s done every year since 2009), will be to fix Facebook.

“Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent,” he wrote.

Tweaking users’ feeds may cause the social media platform to lose some of its lustre for content producers or media companies, especially video makers that cannot make money on Facebook regardless of how many of their videos go viral, said Cho Sodam, founder of Dotface, a youth-oriented media startup based in Seoul, South Korea.

“No matter how well we do on Facebook and how great our videos are, making high-quality videos itself does not bring us any profit,” said Cho.

The 1-year-old Dotface has 110,000 fans on its Facebook page, its primary channel for reaching viewers. Dotface’s videos about a South Korean mother giving a hug to young sexual minority people who could not tell their parents about their sexual orientation struck a chord with viewers around the world, accruing 5 million views and many shares, comments and likes. But those views, comments or share generated no revenue for Dotface.

Cho said her company is expanding links to other platforms, such as YouTube, that share profit with content creators.


AP Technology Writer Youkyung Lee in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this story.

Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Auditors couldn’t tell if Fraser Health executives bought booze on taxpayers’ dime

Review from 2014 says one administrator bought Bose headphones on company credit card

GOLF: Sizzling round of 67 helps Surrey preteen score 16-stroke tourney win

Justin Bjornson wins Peewee Boys title at MJT season-opener, his brother Bailey third in Bantam

Surrey’s Indoor Sprint Triathlon helps newcomers get their feet wet

Second annual TRI event at Guildford rec centre on Sunday, March 25

White Rock mayor says pier flyers ‘shameful’

Democracy Direct says it has no knowledge of posters

StarBand time at JUNOs events for Surrey student musicians

Tamanawis-trained players in multi-school wind orchestra this weekend

VIDEO: Teen girl sent to hospital after fight stemming from house party

A witness said there were dozens of teenagers screaming and arguing in the parking lot after the incident

Golden Knights win 4-1, remain undefeated against Canucks

Vegas gets points from 12 players in dominating effort versus Vancouver

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Langley City hits up province for share of pot revenue

The province says it understands municipalities will face extra costs when marijuana is legalized.

B.C. climber remembered for gentle spirit, love of mountains

Marc-André Leclerc had been hearing the call of the mountains since childhood

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

New anti-radicalization centre in the works for B.C.

Centre aims to help ‘vulnerable individuals on the path to radicalization’ before they turn to crime

B.C. bravery, public service honoured by Governor General Julie Payette

UVic basketball coach Kathryn Shields inducted into Order of Canada

Most Read