April 18, 2012

Inside Facebook | The Atlantic
Facebook is testing a news feed feature that promotes “trending articles” that users are reading and automatically sharing through news apps, Brittany Darwell reports. The feature could drive more users to try “frictionless sharing” apps by news orgs like the Washington Post, Huffington Post or Yahoo.

Interesting and slightly related: Sarah Kendzior writes how she read one Yahoo News story about a teenager killing a 9-year-old neighbor, and the site’s personalization algorithm mistakenly “decided I liked reading about child murder.”

“For the next month, I woke up to a barrage of horrifying stories that seemed to signal an epidemic of child torture in America. … Yahoo News had become my own personal Hunger Games, making me a spectator to violence I would never voluntarily seek out.”

And what that example means to the rest of us:

“Filter bubbles are usually criticized on material or political grounds: They reinforce pre-existing tastes, manipulate consumers into buying products, and limit knowledge of opposing views. But what if the filter is wrong? What if it’s not a true reflection, but a false mirror — one that does not respond to fears and prejudices, but creates them?

… As we rely on internet media to give us a taste of what’s going on, we don’t realize we’re consuming a particular flavor. A sudden uptick in stories on violence — particularly by or against a specific demographic category — can spur paranoia, prejudice and vigilante behavior. What a machine thinks we need to know can become what we fear.”

Related: Mark Zuckerberg put together the $1 billion Instagram acquisition on his own in 48 hours (New York Times) | Facebook launches “Offers” program with coupons in News Feed (PC World) | Yahoo looks to get smaller, more focused under new CEO (Computerworld).

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Jeff Sonderman (jsonderman@poynter.org) is the Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute. He focuses on innovations and strategies for mobile platforms and social media in…
Jeff Sonderman

More News

Back to News