In the days after the November 3rd presidential election, at a time when President Trump began portraying the results as rigged, Facebook employees told CEO Mark Zuckerberg that election-related misinformation was going viral on the site, the New York Times reported yesterday (November 24th). They proposed an emergency change to the news feed algorithm that helps determine what users see every day to make more authoritative news sources appear more prominently. Zuckerberg signed off on the tweak, which was part of emergency plans Facebook had developed ahead of time for the aftermath of a potential contested election. The change led to an increase in visibility for mainstream publishers like the Times, CNN and NPR, and a decrease in visibility for hyperpartisan pages like Breitbart and Occupy Democrats. The Times writes: “It was a vision of what a calmer, less divisive Facebook might look like.” Some employees have since argued that the change should become permanent, even though it’s unclear how it might affect how much time people spend on Facebook, with the possibility it could decrease it. However, the Times reports that Facebook’s Guy Rosen, who oversees the integrity division, told reporters last week that the post-election changes were always intended to be temporary.

YOUR TURN:

  • Do you think Facebook should make the tweak permanent, leading to what the Times describes as “a calmer, less divisive Facebook”?
  • If you’d like to see Facebook keep the change, do you think it should do so even if it meant that people spent less times on the platform?
  • What do you think of the argument that’s been put forward by some lawmakers on both the right and the left that social media companies like Facebook should be treated as publishers and lose the protection from being sued for the content that’s posted on their platforms?
  • Would you want to use social media platforms like Facebook less or more if you were seeing less political content, particularly partisan political content? Why?