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Facebook now lets you upvote and downvote News Feed content

By giving users greater choice in the content they see, it shifts responsibility (and, yes, blame) from the News Feed algorithm. 

Image: Meta

Meta today announced major changes to the Feed (formerly the News Feed). Facebook users can now directly influence the content they see by “upvoting” and “downvoting” posts. 

The Facebook News Feed is a mix of posts from friends and family and “suggested” content from random pages and creators.

Starting today, users can tell Facebook to show less or more of a particular piece of content. Here’s how it works.

Giving Facebook Feedback

At first, Facebook will prompt users to provide feedback. The company plans to include a voting mechanism with all suggested posts soon. 

Meta says the feedback will have a “temporary” effect on how the Facebook News Feed algorithm surfaces suggested content. It’s unclear how long these effects will last. 

The company also plans to introduce an overhauled News Feed settings window. This will allow users to dictate the frequency in which certain kinds of posts appear in their timeline. 

In practice, users will be able to increase the frequency in which personal status updates appear while decreasing the prevalence of posts from public figures and pages

Taking Control

The newsfeed is Facebook’s equivalent of prime real estate. It wasn’t always so.

Its first incarnation was blissfully simple. It showed the latest status updates from friends, family, and casual acquaintances. 

Over time, Facebook engineered the News Feed to increase engagement and deliver hyper-relevant ads. 

This move wasn’t without controversy. Misleading and ultra-partisan content displaced selfies and life updates. Filter bubbles hardened. 

Journalists and political elites decried Facebook as a risk to democracy.

It was no longer a plucky tech giant forged from a Harvard dorm room. It was an unthinking company prepared to sacrifice civil discourse and facts on the altar of virality.

Following the 2016 US Presidential Election, Facebook has battled to repair its tarnished image. The latest update is yet another step in that direction. 

This is a good step. But there’s a cynical angle to be found here.

By giving users greater choice in the content they see, it shifts responsibility (and, yes, blame) from the News Feed algorithm. 

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Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Past work can be found on The Register, Reason, The Next Web, and Wired.

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