Technology and society: Facebook overhaul | Opinion

Kayleigh Rogers reporting from wrote an interesting article titled:

“Facebook’s algorithm is broken. We’ve put together some suggestions on how to fix it.

Rogers interviewed several computer media experts for their suggestions on how to tackle the issues of misinformation, fraud and privacy on all websites, but focused on the growing problems of Facebook.

Suggestions ranged from “Facebook can completely revamp its astronomically successful and profitable business plan” to “Facebook is sunk and should be forced to fail. “

So what exactly is the “algorithm” mentioned in the title of the article? More generally, the term “algorithm” is a fancy word for any step-by-step process that someone or (something) must go through to achieve a specified result. Specifically, a Google search reveals the definition: “a set of instructions for solving logical and mathematical problems, or for performing some other task.” A recipe is a good example of an algorithm because it says what needs to be done, step by step. It takes starters (ingredients) and produces an exit (the finished dish).

Facebook also keeps track of every website you visit (while you’re on Facebook) and how you navigate Facebook itself, collecting data and “deciding” what to see and when. will see. They claim it improves your “Facebook experience”, and while that may be true, what they are not saying is that its algorithms are not just for your convenience, but used primarily to maximize Facebook profits. as well as the time that the user will stay. on his site. The longer you stay, the more ads you will see – this is the same reason supermarkets are moving items. So, as you probably already know, using Facebook isn’t actually free – it makes money by selling information about you to companies that allow them to direct their advertising directly to you.


Facebook’s business model is sort of an improved version of the process of using billboards that you’ll see when you walk to and from work on a real highway (as opposed to the information superhighway). . The owners of these billboards earn their money from companies who display their ads on said billboards so that these businesses can earn money for themselves. For example, if and when you respond to one of the billboards, the money these companies will earn by responding to the message on the billboard is used to pay the owner of the billboards and capitalism continues. his little fellow of the way. If that freeway passes through an upscale neighborhood such as Tribeca, you can be reasonably certain that the advertisements you see will be for high-end products and services, as opposed to suppliers of farm equipment or firearms. The maxim “Follow the money” explains a lot about many of our behaviors as well as why something is happening.

While billboard advertising can’t predict what you’re likely to buy, Facebook advertising tries to do so using the information you enter, whether it’s typing, voice recognition. or brain wave analysis. As an interesting side effect, you will see ads that are different from mine, as Facebook’s algorithm has already safely hidden our likes and dislikes. We hope they are safe and private as that is becoming a problem as well.

Besides the issue of privacy, there are issues: Facebook could be seen as a monopoly similar to the railroad companies in the early 19th century.

“By the late 1800s, railroads dominated shipping and transportation in the United States. Several states had tried to curb the rise of the railroad companies and fight against perceived abuses. But in 1886, the Supreme Court ruled that the state’s efforts to regulate interstate commerce were unconstitutional. This decision prompted Congress to create the Interstate Commerce Act.

Unless all social media is regulated fairly and smoothly by the appropriate federal government agencies, such as the United States Food and Drug Administration, and until sound regulation of the Internet is instituted , the future of the “marketing game” looks promising.


Here’s a potpourri of juicy bits from Rogers ‘article in which she presents the experts’ recommendations:

“Some internal research has found surprisingly simple adjustments [to improve the algorithm]”said Noah Giansiracusa, professor of mathematics at Bentley University and author of” How Algorithms Create and Prevent Fake News “.” For example, if you limit the number of shares, it will actually reduce the amount of misinformation. ” Sharing is an effective method of engaging the user and also allows this content (which, unsurprisingly, contains advertisements) to spread quickly.

“Several experts also pointed out greater user controls, to allow users to decide what content they would like to see. While Facebook offers a lot of user control options, studies have shown that most users don’t know how they operate and that there is no intuitive way for users to report their dissatisfaction with the user. content, said Karrie Karahalios, professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has studied user experience with Facebook. “

Roddy Lindsay, a former Facebook data scientist who co-founded a startup, wants the algorithm to prioritize content that users are likely to deem ‘good for the world.’ This is admittedly a subjective metric, but Facebook experimented with it by asking users to rate content based on whether they thought it was “good” or “bad” for the world.

He then used those comments to train the algorithm to prioritize only the “good” things.

Researchers at Facebook found that this reduced the amount of negative content in user feeds, but it also reduced the number of times users logged into Facebook, so a watered-down version of it was found. eventually passed instead. “… It’s not that these algorithms can’t be improved,” Lindsay said. “The problem is, the only decision-makers for what these algorithms optimize for are businesses.”

“Another more dramatic change would be to completely eliminate the news feed ranking algorithm and go back to a reverse timeline feed. In other words, just show everyone everything people have posted, rather than trying to customize the feed just for you (and whatever the algorithm thinks you’re most likely to click or click). to rage). This notion is controversial. Some of the experts I spoke to said it would never work because it encourages quantity over quality – a fast lane to spam – while also reducing the likelihood that you will see something relevant, interesting or engaging (in every sense of the word) on your feed.

At the extreme end of the spectrum are two ideas, one optimistic and the other pessimistic:

• Facebook can completely revamp its astronomically successful and profitable business plan

• Facebook is unrecoverable and should be forced to fail

I have strong doubts as to the feasibility of the second option as Facebook is certainly no different from any other large organization in that it can easily afford a bunch of lobbyists to ensure its survival and improve their bottom line.

Dr. Stewart A. Denenberg is Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at the State of Plattsburgh, recently retiring after 30 years there. Prior to that, he worked as a technical writer, programmer, and consultant for the US Navy and private industry. Send your comments and suggestions to his blog at, where there is additional text and links. He can also be contacted at [email protected]

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