Here's how Facebook decides what you see on your News Feed

Mark Zuckerberg question markRobert Galbraith/flickrFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook just announced a tweak to its News Feed algorithm that puts more weight on posts from friends and family instead of Pages.

This is bad news for publishers, which Facebook warns could see a decline in their referral traffic, but ostensibly good news for users who it says were “worried about missing important updates from the friends they care about.”

Even more telling than this change though is the list of values that Facebook published along with it.

The social network’s algorithm is a mysterious beast and unfortunately, the post doesn’t unlock the exact formula that determines how it makes its rankings. But it is a window into how Facebook sees itself. There’s an algorithm picking your stories, but there are people telling that algorithm how to act.

In the wake of a series of Gizmodo reports this spring that accused Facebook of suppressing conservative news, the document also feels like a further defence of its own neutrality. “We are not in the business of picking which issues the world should read about,” the company writes.

The social network now seem more like a media company than ever before (spurring reports that that’s causing people to post less of their own personal content) and it controls larger and larger swathes of our digital lives. You might not feel like these values seem to apply to your particular feed, bu clear-cut explanation at least shows what Facebook’s aiming for.

There are three main points that the company highlights:

First, it wants to be a place where friends and family come first. We saw that actualized in today’s update.

Second, your feed should inform. Facebook says that providing content that users feel like they learn from is the next most important signal it uses.

Third, it should entertain. Cue celebrity posts, Live videos, and memes.

Facebook also specifically calls out that it’s a platform for all ideas, values “authentic” communication, wants to let you control your own experience, and plans to iterate constantly.

So ok, not a particularly shocking list of values. But, again, the most revealing part of this document of values is that Facebook wrote it at all.

Read the whole manifesto here.

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