Daily Bread for 11.14.21: Facebook won’t let you control your own news feed

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will see occasional flurries with a high of 37.  Sunrise is 6:46 AM and sunset 4:31 PM for 9h 44m 56s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 79.8% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1889, pioneering female journalist Nellie Bly (aka Elizabeth Cochrane) begins a successful attempt to travel around the world in less than 80 days. She completes the trip in 72 days.

Will Oremus reports Why Facebook won’t let you control your own news feed:

A growing number of lawmakers in both parties now think users should have an option to disable such automated ranking systems — for good. A bill introduced in the House of Representatives this week would require social media companies to offer a version of their services that doesn’t rely on opaque algorithms to decide what users see. It joins a similar bill in the Senate. Both are sponsored by high-ranking members of both parties, giving the legislation a viable path to become law. (They are distinct from previous proposals that seek to regulate algorithms through other means, such as by allowing platforms to be sued when they amplify illegal content.)

Lawmakers’ latest idea to fix Facebook: Regulate the algorithm

The political push raises an old question for Facebook: Why not just give users the power to turn off their feed ranking algorithms voluntarily? Would letting users opt to see every post from the people they follow, in chronological order, be so bad?

The documents suggest that Facebook’s defense of algorithmic rankings stems not only from its business interests, but from a paternalistic conviction, backed by data, that its sophisticated personalization software knows what users want better than the users themselves. It’s a view that likely extends beyond Facebook: Rivals such as Twitter, TikTok and YouTube rely heavily on automated content recommendation systems, as does Facebook’s corporate sibling Instagram.

But critics say this view misses something important: the value of giving users more agency over their information diet.

Since 2009, three years after it launched the news feed, Facebook has used software that predicts which posts each user will find most interesting and places those at the top of their feeds while burying others. That system, which has evolved in complexity to take in as many as 10,000 pieces of information about each post, has fueled the news feed’s growth into a dominant information source.

The proliferation of false information, conspiracy theories and partisan propaganda on Facebook and other social networks has led some to wonder whether we wouldn’t all be better off with a simpler, older system: one that simply shows people all the messages, pictures and videos from everyone they follow, in the order they were posted. That was more or less how Instagram worked until 2016, and Twitter until 2017. But Facebook has long resisted it.

This libertarian opposes a legislative effort to restrict Facebook’s use of its algorithmic ranking. If Facebookers don’t like the algorithm, it is they — not the government — who should pressure the company to change its practices. If Facebook won’t change, disappointed users should quit Facebook. After all, earlier Facebook Revelations Show a What a Dog-Crap Company It Is.

 The Inspired by Iceland tourism site has released a parody, entitled Introducing the Icelandverse, of Facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg’s grand ambitions (he’s looking to create a ‘metaverse‘) and awkward manner:

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2 years ago

[…] also Facebook won’t let you control your own news feed and Facebook Revelations Show a What a Dog-Crap Company It […]