Screenshot: Gizmodo / Frances Hausen
On Tuesday morning, we received the latest updates from major lawmakers Running tires Against Big Tech: A new bill that would force social media giants to offer versions of their platforms free from obscure, black-box algorithms that modify content in a customized way.
First blush, this bill sounds pretty … good? It takes a sledgehammer for one of the real sins of social media that we are all painfully aware of by now: your Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube feed will look fundamentally different from mine, or the person sitting next to you because they are our specific browsing, tweeting and / or Or based on viewing habits. Echo Chamber Hall Inevitable consequences These, and sometimes those resonant chambers turn on Unspeakably violent. The bill would make it mandatory for people to choose to step out of the chamber if they so wished – and the choice is always a good thing.
But since it is a bill sledgehammer, it can almost certainly have some unintended consequences. Per The main platform. Lawmakers initially seem to be trying to dominate Facebook (Ahem, Meta), Especially (which currently exists The number one enemy As far as some co-sponsors of the bill are concerned). But there’s another big problem to deal with: the company already offers us a curation-free version of its platform, and it tested internally how people would respond to a chronological feed.
In both cases, the results are clear: an algorithmically curated Facebook can be bad for society, but a chronological Facebook can be bad in other ways.
There was Axios First to report The so-called Filter Bubble Transparency Act is co-sponsored by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) And AntriTrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cecilin (DR.I.), along with Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) And Burgess Owens (R-Utah). ). Like most tech space bills, its sound (which you can read for yourself) Here), Quite vague. Major social media platforms – such as Facebook, for example – require users to offer access to a version of their newsfeeds that is not “unsuitable” or sorted using specific data for a specific user.
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The ways that these platforms would be able to curate content, according to the bill, include users’ age, for restricting access to adult content, as well as user data that is “provided by a user for the express purpose of determining the order or manner that information is furnished to a user,” such as saved preferences, geographic location, filters, or search queries.
All of this makes sense if you’re thinking of the aforementioned Facebooks, Twitters, and YouTubes of the world, which are specifically targeted by the legislation. (The law would only apply to companies with more than 500 employees, average annual revenue of $50 million or more for the past three years, and 1 million or more users.) These platforms would be legally mandated to offer you a way to opt out of the curated experience you’re getting every time you log on. For those three platforms, the alternative might be the But they are also included in the definition of a responsible “platform” bill Completely built around Customized curation. Under the Filter Bubble Transparency Act, TikTok must offer a version of your “page for you” that is not for you. Spotify needs to offer a version where you are not allowed to recommend artists or concerts in your area. Netflix will launch from a service Tailor making for binging Something to browse in Blockbuster (RIP).
Even if you are not a fan of those platforms, this bill applies to any “public-facing website, Internet application, or mobile application” that uses curation algorithms. This path extends, Way Buck and Co. in ways beyond the general technology platform. Probably did not guess. Each major airline For example, your airline uses this type of algorithm to determine ticket prices. In the current Covid-19 Hellscape, the hotels Start tapping These types of systems are available for customers to book for more stays, and are circulating in grocery stores Content curation Get customers through the door.
Their worst, personalization algorithm fuels Political polarization And Extremist beliefs Which weakens the society. At their best, though, these systems do exactly what they’re designed to do: reduce the paralyzed information overload that anyone might feel when deciding what to buy for dinner that night, or what movie they want to watch later. An uncured app is not only one that is less divisive, but one that is more irresistible to use and less … well, useful overall.
Facebook’s own internal research bears this out. In a 2018 document, “What if we delete a ranked news feed?” There are titles that you can read for yourself. Here, An anonymous researcher describes how the company turned an indefinite number of users’ Facebook feeds “fairly chronological” for two weeks. (This document was published by Haugen’s party in Congress and a group of publications including Gizmodo, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and more.)
The good news is that those who were part of the experiment used less news feeds, but they also used less Facebook overall. The bad news: This has made Facebook an even more tragic experience, less about keeping in touch with your closest friends and more about being a hub for groups and pages.
In other words, the chronological feed has turned Facebook into something like Reddit Not really a compliment.
As the researchers noted, encountering more “annoying” feeds doesn’t bother people as much time on the platform — just Where They were spending it on the platform. The amount of time spent using Facebook’s search engine, such as Facebook Messenger and time spent in groups, has increased significantly. People’s feeds feature more group content (50% more than reported) and less content (20% less) than their friends.
“Unconnected Public Content Edge Story,” which tells you that a friend of yours commented on someone else’s page or profile, “more than twice[d]”According to the document. Researchers created these posts to be” massively “downgraded by Facebook’s general recommendation algorithms, since such posts are seen by most users as” constant quality complaints. “(I can confirm, these posts are extremely annoying). .
This may be why researchers have found dislike rates among Facebook users in this experiment. “As friend content, especially friend status, declines, so do group, follower, and unconnected edge stories,” they wrote. “The dislike rate on such topics is skyrocketing, suggesting that people are not happy with what they see.”
“I wonder how people outside of Facebook will feel about the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ things that are happening as a result of this switch,” wrote an employee referring to Doc.
Another internal commentator noted that “user satisfaction” may be a measure of how often people choose to hide the content they see. “It’s about 50% more,” they added, noting that there are “many levels” of user satisfaction Actually I mean, it suggests that at least, people just … weren’t happy with their news feed.
Oddly enough, despite all this, “Viewport View” (The Internal language The company’s researchers use a person to look at their screen when talking about the number of posts, pictures or content, even when there is less time on the platform). Another employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, offered a guess as to why this could happen.
“I think people tend to scroll to see their normal things or interesting posts,” they wrote. Over time, though, that number has flattened, suggesting that “people are slowly giving up” and just logging off instead of scrolling.
But you do not need to talk to these researchers. At this point, you can log in to your Facebook account on the desktop, click “See more” in the left-hand column, and click “Most Recent” (you can just use This link, If you say). On mobile, this setting is available At the top of the app. The only caveat is that in both cases, the news feed will return to the regular, curated version as soon as you close the page or the app you are using.
Personally, am I … okay? When I tried this chronological news feed for myself, I found something as boring and annoying as these researchers promise. Half-baked memes and random posts from many years old pages that I forgot I dominated the feed. Marketplace posts were also a frequent culprit, which would not be annoying if the product I was buying would be annoying, but they were mostly for cars. And I can’t drive.
Posts from friends — even distant ones! পৃষ্ঠSandwich between promotions for products I don’t want to buy and, of course, the normal amount of Facebook ads. It turned social networks into something that wasn’t … social, when that’s the only reason I created an account with it, to get started.
Has this reduced the platform to an addictive time-sucker? Absolutely. But did I feel “good” about using it? No. Most users probably won’t. And I don’t think lawmakers will either.
Read the full internal Facebook document Here.