Facebook Releases A Video To Shed Light On Its News Feed Algorithm, & Gives Insight On How Content Is Ranked

Facebook has recently released a video, in which its insider delve into the algorithm that redirects content towards users, and the way it selects that very content for display.

The video, published on the Facebook for Business blog, falls under a new series of videos, entitled “Let Me Explain”. With a combination of animation and live action footage, the videos guides users through topics that require a more personal explanation from Facebook’s own team. The first video, for example, deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the social network is pooling together its efforts in order to combat online misinformation regarding vaccines and other relevant topics. Due to the behind the scenes nature of the content being discussed, it takes Facebook and its devs personally stepping in to explain everything. When your community, to add another example, is actively asking what you're doing to curb online misinformation, just stating the facts isn’t enough. Sometimes, it takes a video diving deep into the measures being taken, and what the rationale behind them was.

Also, it seems that Facebook's learning a lesson or two about making their intentions regarding certain actions crystal clear. Big as the platform may be, the social network has been a lightning rod for controversy over the past few years. Between Congressional hearings, an ugly spat with Snapchat, arguments with Apple trying over user privacy, and the recent WhatsApp policy fiasco, it seems that Facebook's done being coy about its motives, and wants to be more honest moving forward. Even by that perspective, however, this current video about their News Feed could use some work.

Granted, explaining the News Feed feature and how content is curated for users is an important step. It satiates a curiosity that many individuals have had about what makes their Facebook wall unique. The video also discusses a lot of points, that we'll address below, that lead to certain types of content being selected over others. This is interesting information, and can be harnessed by content creators on the platform. Ultimately, however, the video completely sidestep some of the biggest questions and concerns users have. Questions about person data being used to generate News Feed content, how advertisements are curated, and what sort of information goes to those third party apps are left completely unaddressed. What a shame. Seems like honesty is a lesson Facebook isn’t particularly keen on learning.

At any rate, let’s discuss the video's content. Facebook relies on an algorithm specifically designed to rank and place content on a user's News Feed. In order to discern what content is objectively “better", the algorithm relies on four key steps. Namely, inventory, signals, predictions, and scores. Inventory is all the posts you could potentially encounter, such as those from friends, pages, groups, and ads. Signals is the algorithm observing what content you do and don’t engage with, and how you choose to do so. Predictions essentially has the Facebook attempting to predict what content you'll enjoy most, based on inventory and signals. Finally, each piece of curated content is given a score, allowing the higher scoring (and theoretically more relevant) content to show up first on your personal News Feed. Facebook even states that you can personally have more away in the content you see by selecting certain pages and groups to rank amongst your “Favorites". The top 30 Favorite content will then show up more on your screen.

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