Facebook offers limited
detail on formula behind News Feed
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[June 30, 2016]
By Yasmeen Abutaleb
FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc on Wednesday offered a rare glimpse
into how it ranks and shows content in its News Feed, part of an effort
to provide more transparency about its operations as the social
network's cultural and political influence continue to grow.
The disclosures, though lacking in detail, are notable in part because
they come in the wake of a May news report alleging liberal political
bias in a Facebook feature called Trending Topics.
“News Feed is a system that’s designed and built by people, but people
have values and those values are reflected in how we make decisions on a
regular basis,” Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management for
News Feed, told a press briefing.
Mosseri said the core principle of News Feed - the place most people see
postings on Facebook - is that posts from family and friends get ranked
first. That is followed by "informative" content, which can range from
news articles to recipes and is determined by what types of posts an
individual tends to click on.
"Entertaining" content is the third priority, and is similarly based on
Although News Feed is separate from Trending Topics, it is the central
feature of the Facebook experience and any hint that is was influenced
by a political agenda could be hugely damaging to the company. The
heated U.S. presidential election has heightened concerns about possible
attempts to influence elections.
Facebook denied the May allegations about Trending Topics, but the
claims spurred a Congressional letter demanding answers. Facebook then
provided a first-ever explanation of how Trending Topics articles were
chosen and also made changes in its process.
“We realize we need to be more and more proactive” in communicating how
News Feed operates, said Mosseri.
Facebook launched News Feed in 2006 as a way to help users see the
content that would be most important to them from their friends, family
and pages they choose to follow. It uses an algorithm that it says it is
constantly updating, along with human editors, to decide what content it
should show customers.
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Computer screens display the Facebook
sign-in screen in this photo illustration taken in Golden, Colorado,
United States July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Facebook stressed in a blog post Wednesday that it does not favor
certain sources or ideas. “We are not in the business of picking which
issues the world should read about.”
The company also said it is working to better identify content that
users find authentic and surface it higher in the News Feed, as well as
removing more “click bait,” which it said users find misleading.
Responding to criticism that Facebook and other social networks create
an "echo chamber" in which people see only stories that reflect their
views, Mosseri said the team tries to help users find new pages to
follow that could diversify their feeds.
In the United States, he added, 25 percent of people’s friends who
report their political affiliation have a different affiliation than the
“We’re trying to figure out what people find interesting," Mosseri said.
"People find opposing views interesting.”
(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb. Editing by Jonathan Weber and Andrew
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