Tweak to Facebook algorithm penalizes media content

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regrets that media content is getting less exposure on Facebook as a result of changes to Edgerank, the algorithm that controls its newsfeed.

Facebook says its goal is to ensure that what your friends post gets priority over other content such as journalistic content published by the news media. This means that a lot of your friends will have to “share,” “like” or comment on a news story or a piece of news media content for it to appear prominently on your Facebook page.

Defending the change, Facebook vice-president Adam Mosseri said Facebook’s primary function was to bring people together not to influence what should interest them.

“We are not in the business of picking which issues the world should read about,” Mosseri said. “We are in the business of connecting people and ideas – and matching people with the stories they find most meaningful.”

What he says is fine in itself but the trend is for social network users to be swamped by such a volume of information that they are often hard put to distinguish journalistic information from other kinds of content.

“In a world in which the quantity of information does not stop growing, the issue of its independence, honesty and quality becomes a major challenge,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Societies need the broadest possible freedom of opinion but, within what is encompassed by freedom expression, we must not allow journalistic reporting based on method, rules of honesty and the principle of independence to disappear at the expense of subjectivity and pure opinion. Even if Facebook refuses to accept its role as a ‘media,’ it has become one of the main news sources for its 1.6 billion users and must therefore assume its responsibility.”

Facebook’s decision to reduce the space for news media content is fraught with consequences. RSF fears that it will encourage biased, demagogic and even manipulated content at the expense of quality content that helps users to break out of their certainty bubble and rub up against opinions different from their own.

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Updated on 07.07.2016