ZUCKERBERG’S TWEAKS PROVE FACEBOOK CAN CURB DISINFORMATION
According to the New York Times, Facebook, apparently sensing the inevitable shitstorm that would proceed on Election Day, preemptively set up changes to what kind of content its algorithm could promote and demote, which was activated—a move that Mark Zuckerberg reportedly signed off on personally—after misinformation began circulating at alarmingly high rates during Trump’s first days of attempting to steal the race, Caleb Ecarma wrote for the Hive newsletter of Vanity Fair.
Ecarma said Facebook moved to show users more posts from established and more widely trusted news outlets, meaning that content from organizations like CNN, NPR, and the Times was more likely to appear as users scrolled through their timelines. The site had created an internal metric called “news ecosystem quality” scores, or NEQ, to rank which publishers should be prioritized by Facebook’s algorithm, meaning that posts from mainstream, less partisan media outlets would be more likely to appear on a user’s timeline.
On the other side, publishers deemed hyperpartisan or untrustworthy receive lower NEQ scores, like the Trump-friendly Breitbart News or the popular progressive Facebook page Occupy Democrats. They were downgraded by the algorithm, even if those pages are typically highly trafficked.
Some Facebook employees welcomed the algorithm change with open arms; the Times reported that during a company meeting held a week after the election, there were calls for making the “nicer news feed” a permanent feature. Additionally, in an internal poll conducted by Facebook this month, employees expressed less pride in working for the company than they had in prior years, with only half of the respondents viewing the platform as a net positive for the world.