Here's my problem with that decision: Prioritizing news content based on what your friends like or share furthers the siloing of our news consumption. The people you are friends with on Facebook are, in 99 out of 100 cases these days, people with whom you share a common worldview. The news stories you share with one another — particularly as they relate to politics — are much more likely to affirm your point of view than question it in any meaningful way.
This sentence from the Facebook release paints a somewhat disturbing vision of how its all powerful News Feed aims to operate: "Our aim is to deliver the types of stories we’ve gotten feedback that an individual person most wants to see."
This gets us into the long-running fight between reading things you want to read and reading things you should read. Simply because you "want" to see a certain type of article written from a specific political perspective, say, doesn't mean that's what you should be seeing every day.
In a world in which we have lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable, Facebook's move on its News Feed exacerbates rather than ameliorates our tendency to seek out information only that confirms our previously held beliefs.
This is, at some level (most levels?), easily dismissed as a self-serving argument. What's beyond debate is that Facebook's changes to its News Feed mean less priority is being given to news publishers (such as The Washington Post). And less priority in this case means less traffic to those articles — unless, of course, someone (or someones) in your friends-and-family circle recommends it to you.
"Sour grapes!" you will yell. "You don't like the changes because they cut away at your bottom line!" That is, I suppose, true-ish. There's no question that if a story I wrote somehow made it into a key spot in lots of people's News Feeds, it would get a ton of traffic.
But to my mind, that's sort of beside the point. Facebook's size — and the growing reliance of people (especially younger people) on it for news — makes it a giant player in determining not only the future of content but the future of how we interact (and don't) with one another.
We are already living near and making friends, offline, with people who tend to share our views. We are already consuming content, online and on cable TV, that largely comports with those same views. Facebook, because of its size and its influence as a content distributor, had — and has — the potential to make sure we see stuff that might actually make us think rather than just nod our heads.
That's not what these changes to the News Feed will do. In fact, quite the opposite.