Facebook’s policy shift could do as much harm as good

Jacob Kunz


How does Mark Zuckerberg plan to fix Facebook in 2018? It seems the first step is a little less news in your news feed.

In a post on Jan. 11, Zuckerberg detailed an outline of things to come for the social media giant, opting for a shift in Facebook’s algorithm away from “public content” — media outlets and businesses — and instead focusing on posts from friends and family above all else.

This response comes from blame Facebook received for perpetuating the spread of misinformed or deliberately misleading articles after replacing a human curation team with an algorithm to bring popular content to users. In creating an algorithm that prioritizes the amount of time a user engages with the platform to maximize advertising revenue, Facebook’s disastrous system devalued balanced journalism and promoted clickbait articles and fake news.

While this is a step in the right direction for the site at the cost of potential revenue, it’s hardly atonement for how the platform has shifted digital content creation. Facebook’s attempt to reduce public content hinders journalists and spells disaster for students and prospective content creators looking for a wide audience online.

With this new policy shift, Facebook largely aims to promote publishers that post longer, well-produced videos and articles with less frequency, which will hurt those who aim for viral success with live videos and short clips. Meanwhile, the readjustment hardly affects large publishing companies that can afford professional production and distribution.

“Since we don’t rely on Facebook for a lot of distribution, the changes may not be all bad,” said Raju Narisetti, CEO of Gizmodo Media Group, in an interview. “But it should be the final kiss of death for those pivoting to video betting on getting video views via Facebook.”

For smaller production groups, startups, or even successful digital publications such as Buzzfeed and Vice, Facebook will be abandoning a creator base it formed. The change will rob the traffic of short-form video and article production, a format that Facebook’s previous algorithm popularized.

Facebook’s algorithm has been mired in confusion and misinformation since its very beginning, and will continue to be an issue no matter how many tweaks they make to the system. The platform needs to revert back to a human team to make precise, weighted decisions on what to allow and promote on the site.

For years, Zuckerberg has stated that Facebook is “a tech company, not a media company.” But he couldn’t be more wrong. Facebook is responsible for more than 40 percent of traffic to news sites, and any editorial choices the platform makes has vast repercussions on the media landscape.

Now, more than ever, we must hold Facebook accountable for more than just broad strokes.

Kunz is an English freshman from New Braunfels, Texas.