Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Facebook redirects focus to social interaction, leaving businesses in the dust

Facebook redirects focus to social interaction, leaving businesses in the dust

Mark Zuckerberg has mentioned in a blog post that he wants users to connect with more meaningful posts and this inadvertently translates to a drop in public content. Last year, Facebook disclosed that Russian agents had used the social network to spread divisive and inflammatory posts and ads to polarise the United States electorate.

Last week, the Facebook CEO said he would start "fixing" the issues facing the social media giant, including the spread of abuse and hate and "defending against interference" from state governments.

"We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren't just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being", Zuckerberg wrote.

Zuckerberg also said that he expected the "the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down".

The Facebook CEO's latest announcement is nearly a total reversal from a deal he offered publishers in 2014, whereby they could host articles directly on its mobile app, giving them easy access to Facebook's 1.37 billion active users.

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That's because even if people read such content on Facebook, they don't necessarily comment or interact with it in other ways.

These changes are made after Facebook was criticized for spreading fake news in 2016 USA election.

Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management at Facebook, who is responsible for running the News Feed, acknowledged that "there will be anxiety" from partners and publishers who often complain about the constantly shifting goal posts of what will be shown across the network.

That's news shareholders may not want to hear, but Zuckerberg said he believes the changes will be mutually beneficial in the long run for Facebook's two billion users and its bottom line.

In contrast, "passively reading articles or watching videos - even if they're entertaining or informative - may not be as good".

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"This big wave of public content has really made us reflect: What are we really here to do?" "By focusing on bringing people closer together - whether it's with family and friends or around important moments in the world - we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent", he wrote. He further assured that this is a good move in the long term and will also help the entire community and the business.

Facebook has said before that it will emphasize personal connections over business pages and celebrities that people follow.

The platform has been sharply criticized for allowing the dissemination of fake news and formation of the so-called echo chambers where users are never exposed to content challenging their views.

Another example given by Facebook in a separate post was live video feeds, which tend to generate much discussion.

"This is recognition of the issues they've faced with toxic content", said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group. Facebook says these pages may see another decline in traffic being referred and videos being watched, though the impact will vary depending on the type of content they produce and how people interact with it.

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