Publishers of alternative political media on the right and the left are sounding the alarm about planned changes to Facebook, Google and other online giants that will severely limit your choices and chances to see different views.
The social media giants claims it’s an attempt to crack down on “fake news,” but what it will really do is further close the box around users, not exposing them to a wide range of opinions in their news feed. Digidaily reports:
Those who have been briefed say that under the new test, Facebook told them it will favor content that’s shared by users or otherwise actively engaged with. The thinking goes, according to those briefed, that Facebook believes prioritizing content that’s acted on will reduce the occurrence of fake and offensive content in the news feed.
For their part, Facebook is telling publishers that they will still allow content from “reputable publishers,” but didn’t specify exactly what their conditions for “reputable” were.
The news feed would be further “curated” to focus more on what your friends and family share and less on publishers and brands. It’s meant to increase “meaningful interaction” and reduce “passive content,” but what that effectively means is you’re being exposed to fewer and fewer news choices.
Zuckerberg confirmed the changes to the New York Times, saying “We want to make sure that our products are not just fun, but are good for people. We need to refocus the system.”
Thursday’s changes raise questions of whether people may end up seeing more content that reinforces their own ideologies if they end up frequently interacting with posts and videos that reflect the similar views of their friends or family. And bogus news may still spread — if a relative or friend posts a link with an inaccurate news article that is widely commented on, that post will be prominently displayed.
So we know that Facebook is trying to shut out alternative viewpoints – different viewpoints – from its audience. But they’re also trying to narcotize you: They want you to feel happy. Not be exposed to any challenging information, different information or news that may change how you see the world. They say it’s for your “well being.”
“When people are engaging with people they’re close to, it’s more meaningful, more fulfilling,” said David Ginsberg, director of research at Facebook. “It’s good for your well-being.”
Over at Google, they have installed a “fact checking” tool that only seems to apply to conservative sites.
Type in “The Daily Caller” in Google – a popular conservative news site – and you’ll get a sidebar that “factchecks” their articles. The same with other conservative sites like The Gateway Pundit, Breitbart, and Newsbusters.
But you’ll get no such “Fact checking” with liberal sites like the Huffington Post or the terrible Daily Kos.
According to Eric Lieberman of the Daily Caller, “Google, the most powerful search engine in the world, is now displaying fact checks for conservative publications in its results. No prominent liberal site receives the same treatment.”
The impact of this change will be huge, from publishers of political news on the right and left, to small businesses and other charitable groups.
The repercussions from Facebook’s new News Feed changes will almost certainly be far-reaching. Publishers, nonprofits, small business and many other groups rely on the social network to reach people, so de-emphasizing their posts will most likely hurt them. Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management at Facebook, who is responsible for running the News Feed, acknowledged that “there will be anxiety” from partners and publishers who often complain about the constant changes in what will be shown across the network.
We will see what the future holds: an America full of people driven by pre-packaged content and ideas that come from a smaller and smaller box of thought, or a country where people are exposed to a wide range of ideas on a social media platform that cherishes diversity of thought.