Saturday, 13 January 2018

Facebook moves to stomp on freedom of information

Facebook overhauls news feed to focus on friends and family

Fewer news articles. More baby photos. And continuing angst about Facebook's role in the world

11 January, 2018

Your Facebook feed will soon start to look a little different.

But this isn't just about you. It's also about the power and influence of the world's dominant social network.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday that Facebook is overhauling the news feedto prioritize posts from family and friends, as opposed to those from brands and publishers.
That means its 2 billion users will see fewer news articles, viral videos and other media content. Instead, they'll see more baby pictures and status updates from aunts, childhood friends and co-workers. The change is the biggest tweak the social network has made to the news feed -- essentially the soul of Facebook -- in years.
The idea is to let you have more "meaningful interactions" and to try to make sure you don't suffer from the time you spend on Facebook. Last month, the company released a report on how people consume content on Facebook and on the consequences of that behavior. Passively scrolling and reading things, it found, can have negative effects, while being more interactive -- "liking" posts and writing comments -- can be positive.
"We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren't just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. "I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions."
Facebook has been under intense scrutiny as it grapples with its scale and influence. Its almighty algorithms have the power to decide what people see online, and the thinking is that can have an effect on how they view the world. The company, along with Twitter and Google, has been in the hot seat with lawmakers for the role its platform played in the 2016 election. Russian trolls abused the service to try to sway the results and sow discord among Americans.
Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said his latest annual challenge is to "fix" some of the problems that have spread on Facebook, like hate and abuse. He teased the upcoming change by saying one of the goals is "making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent."

'If we do the right thing...'

On Thursday, he also acknowledged that, in the short term, the company's business could take a hit as a result of the change. Publishers, businesses and other brands rely on Facebook's new feed for distribution.
"By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down," he wrote. "But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable."
That acknowledgement of the potential hardship on the business side rattled investors. On Friday morning, Facebook shares were down more than 4 percent.
But those worries may be overblown, according to one Wall Street firm. In a note to investors Friday, Evercore ISI offered a reassuring perspective.
"Facebook appears to be trading engagement for a higher-quality user experience," Evercore's analysts wrote. "Ultimately, we see the announced change as a likely long-term positive [that] comes at a time when Facebook is making strategic decisions from a position of strength."
Clearly, Facebook felt this was an important move to make, even with the disruption.
"If we do the right thing," Zuckerberg wrote, "I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too."

There may be some truth in this

Facebook Plunge Drags Nasdaq Red, VIX Chaotic Ahead Of Open

12 January, 2018

Update: Facebook continues to tumble further - down over 5.5%...
And is weighing both the S&P and Nasdaq down pre-market...

Additionally, VIX is chaotic ahead of the open as the machines desperately try to bid the market green for the open.

Stifel analyst Scott Devitt downgraded the recommendation on Facebook Inc. to hold from buy.
*  *  *
Facebook has erased most of its year-to-date gains in pre-market trading as investors see CEO Zuckerberg's decision to shift news feeds to personal posts and away from businesses and media outlets creating a risk to the company’s financial performance.

As we detailed overnight, Facebook is making major changes to its flagship social network, shifting users’ news feeds back toward posts from friends and family and away from businesses and media outlets -- a transition that is likely to mean people spend less time on the site.

In a post Thursday, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said community feedback has shown that public content has been “crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.” The goal of the product teams will be to help Facebook’s more than 2 billion monthly users find content that will lead to more meaningful social interactions, he said.
"By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down," Zuckerberg wrote. "But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too."

As Bloomberg points out, the changes promised today aren’t entirely new -- Facebook has been shifting the content on its news feed toward posts from friends and family and away from brands and publications for more than a year.

A large part of brands and media companies’ strategies is to post articles and videos from their pages to engage consumers -- items that aren’t considered "meaningful interactions" between people. Downplaying those posts from brands and businesses may put revenue at risk, said James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co.
There will be less opportunity to expose Facebook users to brands," Cakmak said.

Stifel analyst Scott Devitt (buy, PT $195) has "less conviction in our call vs any other time in our coverage history" as FB either addresses the platform issues despite the effect on monetization or ignores the challenges and risks the franchise.

The move could exacerbate slowing trends in user engagement, although the trends don’t take into account Instagram or WhatsApp usage, which have both grown rapidly.

The reaction to Zuckerberg's self-censorship decision is clear...

Shareholders clearly prefer more fake news to less.

As we concluded previously, ironically, the newsfeed overhaul is also said to be "an attempt to encourage more sharing and personal connecting, amid a backlash with many people worrying about social media sucking up time and damaging users’ mental health" according to the FT.

In reality, it will only succeed in further alienating an already deeply polarized American population.

Yet while it remains to be seen what impact on Facebook, or Zuckerberg's 2020 presidential ambitions, this latest foray into censorship has, the biggest losers are clear.

Last year, the company tested separating friends and family posts from those posted by businesses and publishers. It created a tab called “Explore” for those other posts in six countries including Sri Lanka, Slovakia and Cambodia. What happened next? Publishers in those countries complained that traffic fell dramatically.

At the time, Adam Mosseri, head of newsfeed, said Facebook currently had no plans to roll this test out further in other countries and said it was unfortunate that some had "mistakenly made that interpretation." It now appears that this "test" is about to applied to everyone.


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