Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Facebook changes again, for the worse

Facebook rolled out new changes over the weekend, and I am not happy with them. Everyone seems to complain every time Facebook makes changes, but these changes are part of a dangerous trend. People assume that Facebook functions as a "fire hose" delivering to you the status updates and shared links that your friends share without censorship or filtering. Wrong. Even after you switch to the "most recent" option you still have to do some customizing in Facebook's settings to get the full picture.

But now Facebook has done something that doesn't appear you can undo by changing your settings. Facebook has decided to consolidate, group and truncate stories that it deems to be dealing with the same subject.

Sounds innocent enough. But the consequences for someone who uses Facebook as a source of first hand political information are pretty dramatic. Take this screen shot for example:

Facebook decided that whatever The Raw Story, Jay Clough and the Washington Post had to say about President Obama wasn't good enough to show me. These type of decisions have profound consequences as more and more people use social media channels as their primary source of information.

Everyone who supports the President will now be lumped together while conservative groups (Yes, I do follow many of them) will be able to broadcast their feelings about Michelle Bachman, Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman knowing that their stories are much less likely to be grouped together.

We need to have a national conversation about how much power we are surrendering to the 21st century gatekeepers. In the past editors in newspaper conference rooms decided what became news and what didn't. Now algorithms and the wealthy nerds who designed them will decide what Facebook's 750 million users think is news. This is a dangerous trend and we need to take back the authority over how the communication channels of the 21st century will be governed.

This problem will probably bother me less when (or if) the Republicans finally settle on a nominee, but until then I am not too happy that my newsfeed will be dominated by more insipid posts from Mitt Romney's team.


  1. another reason you should get your news from twitter maybe?

  2. The new documentary on the Times reinforces my perception that the old gatekeepers still have a lot of power as well.