Whatever Mark Zuckerberg says about human community or his legacy, his company is acting in its own interests—and against the public good.
Facebook’s crushing blow to independent media arrived last fall in Slovakia, Cambodia, Guatemala, and three other nations.The social giant removed stories by these publishers from users’ news feeds, hiding them in a new, hard-to-find stream. These independent publishers reported that they lost as much as 80 percent of their audience during this experiment.Facebook doesn’t care. At least, it usually seems that way… the company is now going ahead with similar changes to its news feed globally. These changes will likely de-prioritize stories from professional publishers, and instead favor dispatches published by a user’s friends and family. .. Many American news organizations will see the sharp traffic declines their brethren in other nations experienced last year—unless they pay Facebook to include their stories in readers’ feeds.
.. People say they’re interested in a broad range of news from different political preferences, but Facebook knows they really want angry, outraged articles that confirm political prejudices... Publishers in Slovakia and in the United States may warn of damage to democracy if Facebook readers receive less news, but Facebook knows people will be perfectly happy—perfectly engaged—with more posts from friends and families instead... I pledge to go to the gym more in 2018, but every morning when I wake up, my partner presents me with a plate of donuts and urges me to stay in bed and eat them. My revealed preferences show that I’m more interested in eating donuts than in exercising. But it’s pretty perverse that my partner is working to give me what I really crave, ignoring what I’ve clearly stated I aspire to... When people choose to subscribe to reliable news sources, they’re asking to go to the gym. With these newsfeed changes, Facebook threw out your gym shoes and subscribed you to a donut delivery service. Why do 2 billion people put up with a service that patronizingly reminds them that it’s designed for their well being, while it studiously ignores our stated preferences?.. I think the only way Facebook will listen to people’s expressed preferences is if people start building better alternatives... Right now, Facebook chooses what stories should top your news feed, optimizing for “engagement” and “time well spent.”..Instead of telling Facebook what it should do, people should build tools that let them view the world the way they choose. If regulators force Facebook and other platforms to police news quality, they’ll give more control to a platform that’s already demonstrated its disinterest editorial judgment. A better path would be to force all platforms to adopt two simple rules:
- Users own their own data, including the content they create and the web of relationships they’ve built online. And they can take this data with them from one platform to another, or delete it from an existing platform.
- Users can view platforms like Facebook through an aggregator, a tool that lets you read social media through your own filters, like Gobo... it either needs to learn to listen to its users stated desires, or it needs to make room for platforms that do.