Forbes Says Facebook is Finally Giving You What You Want. Kind Of.

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A new article on Forbes says that one of the most-requested features for Facebook is to let users see News Feed posts in chronological order, rather than presented through the mysterious lens of the social giant's algorithm - and now, Facebook is rolling out that feature, though not exactly the way most users would prefer.

Facebook announced new tools in a recent pair of blog posts. One was a more traditional piece on Facebook itself, while the other was a 5,000-word essay by Nick Clegg, the company's Vice President of Global Affairs, posted on Medium. It was titled: "You and the Algorithm: It Takes Two to Tango."

The new features are about being better able to control Facebook's algorithm:
  • A new Feed Filter Bar has three tabs: Home, which is the traditional, algorithm-based feed; Favorites, filled with posts by up to 30 friends and pages you designate; and Recent, posts from friends, groups, and liked pages in chronological order.
  • Limiting who can comment on your posts mimics a Twitter feature. You can restrict comments to anyone who can see the post, friends, or specific people or pages you tag. While there is no simple way to prevent commenting altogether, it would be possible to tag a page you own as the only source for comments, effectively shutting them off.
  • Why you're seeing a post in the algorithm view has sometimes been a puzzle, but Facebook is expanding its "Why am I seeing this?" feature to include any post. You can now click on the three-button menu atop any post and choose "Why am I seeing this post?" If you've friended someone or liked a page, it's obvious. But this helps shed light on why posts from seemingly random sources show up in your feed.

Clegg goes into more detail about how Facebook's algorithm works in his Medium post, positioning the new features as a way to provide more transparency. He addresses critics who say that Facebook profits from displaying sensational, extreme, and divisive content that keeps users glued to the platform:

"The reality is, it's not in Facebook's interest -- financially or reputationally -- to continually turn up the temperature and push users towards ever more extreme content. The company's long-term growth will be best served if people continue to use its products for years to come. If it prioritized keeping you online an extra 10 or 20 minutes, but in doing so made you less likely to return in the future, it would be self-defeating."
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