Facebook announced its new approach to our News Feed, which will prioritize friend content over the content of news-media outlets. So, if your friend posts an article about the fact that Trump’s hair isn’t a consistent color (it’s either orange, yellow, or whitish, which may prompt one to wonder if he does his own coloring and how that might look in the master suite of the White House), then you will see it. But, without the share by your friend, the media outlet that created the content will not show up in your News Feed, even though you “liked” them and “follow” them. We will see less ‘news’ on our feeds and more ‘shared’ content from friends, colleagues, and family. The news media, especially companies like BuzzFeed that depend on Facebook content placement to reach the majority of their readers, are up in arms. What will this do to their power?
For the last year, I have entered the debate—both in print and in conversations with friends before they hang up on me in irritation—proclaiming that it’s not the media that has the power to put the shiny Trump hair news above the reports that Texas has made abortion illegal after the sixth week; it’s we, the people, who do so. The news media, way back whenever, decided to make money. Advertisers are interested in eyeballs. Eyeballs from the populace (that’s you and me, friends) click on that which interests us. The news media examine the data and increase coverage of the topics that most interest their readers. The long and short of it is that if you and I stopped clicking on those articles that boil our blood, the news-media outlets would stop publishing the information that is sinking our country like the Titanic. Screaming this message far and wide, I liken myself to those two guys in the Titanic’s crow’s nest who started yelling when they spotted the iceberg. Oh well, I trust they perished along with everyone else, as will I.
Per the New York Times, “The feed—the list of status updates the app displays on its primary screen—will prioritize posts that elicit what Facebook calls ‘meaningful’ interactions with friends and family, and will downgrade things like links to articles and videos, which it says encourages you to passively scroll through the News Feed.” Facebook’s use of the word “meaningful” is the thing to pay attention to with this new algorithm. “Meaningful” to me may be very different from “meaningful” to you, and for Facebook to think they can set up a way to determine that difference is filled with hubris, to be sure. No one should trust me to determine “meaningful” in the global sense. It’s the doorway to the new “truth,” which no longer can be defined as “that which is true.” Truth, to each of us, is “that which I want to be true through my own biased filter.” Opinion and truth are not the same thing. Truth should be the content provided by media outlets, and my opinion should be the commentary I place above that content: “This is wrong because . . .” or “This is so right on because . . . .” It was the beginning of the end when media outlets began to publish our opinions of the truth as “news” in order to get our eyeballs to love and share it.
Facebook, in my left-leaning opinion, should hire $1 billion worth of fact-checkers, and if a media outlet’s article is not factual, then it should get zero space in the News Feed. That would be a “meaningful” change in their quest, if it really is their quest, to stop fake news from interfering with inconsequential things like our elections.
Oh, and, Google, the same goes for you.