Facebook’s News Feed is arguably the single most important information source on earth: the place where a startling 1.09 billion people turn daily for everything from breaking news to baby pictures.
On June 29, in the aftermath of a scandal involving the News Feed’s designated “trending topics” — and in the midst of continuing questions about how posts do or do not surface in the stream — Facebook announced a major update and published a manifesto of sorts, clarifying its “values” and policies.
The big reveal, as our colleague Hayley Tsukayama writes over at The Switch, is that Facebook will begin prioritizing posts by your friends and family members (… to the detriment of places like The Washington Post). But there’s far more to be gleaned from Facebook’s statement than that: It also reveals how one of the world’s most powerful tech companies thinks about its users and its role as a gatekeeper and information intermediary.
We’re annotating the statement below to draw those details out, and you can take part too: Just highlight the text you wish to annotate and wait for the Genius box to come up. We will be moderating, so no funny stuff!
By Adam Mosseri, VP, Product Management, News Feed
The goal of News Feed is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them. Today, we’re announcing an update to News Feed that helps you see more posts from your friends and family. We explain this change in more detail here.
When we launched News Feed in 2006, it was hard to imagine the challenge we now face: far too much information for any one person to consume. In the decade since, more than a billion people have joined Facebook, and today they share a flood of stories every day. That’s why stories in News Feed are ranked — so that people can see what they care about first, and don’t miss important stuff from their friends. If the ranking is off, people don’t engage, and leave dissatisfied. So one of our most important jobs is getting this ranking right.
As part of that process, we often make improvements to News Feed, and when we do, we rely on a set of core values. These values — which we’ve been using for years — guide our thinking, and help us keep the central experience of News Feed intact as it evolves. In our continued efforts to be transparent about how we think about News Feed, we want to share those values with you.
Our success is built on getting people the stories that matter to them most. If you could look through thousands of stories every day and choose the 10 that were most important to you, which would they be? The answer should be your News Feed. It is subjective, personal, and unique — and defines the spirit of what we hope to achieve.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY COME FIRST
Facebook was built on the idea of connecting people with their friends and family. That is still the driving principle of News Feed today. Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook. That’s why if it’s from your friends, it’s in your feed, period — you just have to scroll down. To help make sure you don’t miss the friends and family posts you are likely to care about, we put those posts toward the top of your News Feed. We learn from you and adapt over time. For example, if you tend to like photos from your sister, we’ll start putting her posts closer to the top of your feed so you won’t miss what she posted while you were away.
Our research has also shown us that, after friends and family, people have two other strong expectations when they come to News Feed:
- Your feed should inform. People expect the stories in their feed to be meaningful to them — and we have learned over time that people value stories that they consider informative. Something that one person finds informative or interesting may be different from what another person finds informative or interesting — this could be a post about a current event, a story about your favorite celebrity, a piece of local news, or a recipe. We’re always working to better understand what is interesting and informative to you personally, so those stories appear higher up in your feed.
- Your feed should entertain. We’ve also found that people enjoy their feeds as a source of entertainment. For some people, that’s following a celebrity or athlete; for others it’s watching Live videos and sharing funny photos with their friends. We work hard to try to understand and predict what posts on Facebook you find entertaining to make sure you don’t miss out on those.
A PLATFORM FOR ALL IDEAS
We are not in the business of picking which issues the world should read about. We are in the business of connecting people and ideas — and matching people with the stories they find most meaningful. Our integrity depends on being inclusive of all perspectives and view points, and using ranking to connect people with the stories and sources they find the most meaningful and engaging.
We don’t favor specific kinds of sources — or ideas. Our aim is to deliver the types of stories we’ve gotten feedback that an individual person most wants to see. We do this not only because we believe it’s the right thing but also because it’s good for our business. When people see content they are interested in, they are more likely to spend time on News Feed and enjoy their experience.
It’s important to note that while we welcome a multitude of viewpoints, we also believe strongly that people should feel — and be — safe when they use Facebook, and we therefore have Community Standards that define the behavior that we think is out-of-bounds on the platform. We think it’s possible to be inclusive without making Facebook a place where people are subjected to attacks, hate, or other harmful behavior.
The strength of our community depends on authentic communication. The feedback we’ve gotten tells us that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most. That’s why we work hard to understand what type of stories and posts people consider genuine — so we can show more of them in News Feed. And we work to understand what kinds of stories people find misleading, sensational and spammy, to make sure people see those less.
YOU CONTROL YOUR EXPERIENCE
Ultimately, you know what’s most meaningful to you — and that’s why we’ve developed controls so you can customize what you see. Features such as “unfollow,” “hide” and “see first” help you design your own experience — and when you use them, we take your actions as feedback to help us better understand what content is most important to you. For example, if you hide a story from someone, that signals that you’re less interested in hearing from that person in the future. As News Feed evolves, we’ll continue building easy-to-use and powerful tools to give you the most personalized experience.
We view our work as only 1 percent finished — and are dedicated to improving along the way. As we look for ways to get better, we will continue soliciting feedback. We will be as open as we can — providing explanations in News Feed FYI wherever possible and looking for opportunities to share how we work.
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