We’re all used to see the lists of the most-shared stories on Facebook being dominated by relatively extreme political news sites that often trade in disinformation. But this month, Facebook experimented with prioritising a very different set of news sources.
Suddenly, ‘high-quality’ outlets like the CNN, The New York Times, and NPR replaced the likes of Breitbart and Occupy Democrats in Americans’ News Feeds.
As the NYT reports:
It was a vision of what a calmer, less divisive Facebook might look like. Some employees argued the change should become permanent, even if it was unclear how that might affect the amount of time people spent on Facebook. In an employee meeting the week after the election, workers asked whether the “nicer news feed” could stay, said two people who attended.
But nice, calm feeds probably drive less engagement, and they also annoy conservatives who think of such a change as ‘censorship’ against their views. The revised algorithm was gone within days.
This is a good example of how Facebook is caught up trying to juggle lots of different priorities related to its own growth, its political standing, and the good of society as a whole.
Many would say it should start putting the good of society first. And that would mean it would need to decide what it thinks is good for society, something Mark Zuckerberg may well be reluctant to do.