Facebook overhauls news feed to focus on friends and family – CNET



Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a new vision for your news feed.


James Martin/CNET

Your Facebook feed will soon start to look a little different.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday the company is overhauling the news feed to prioritize posts from family and friends, as opposed to ones from brands and publishers.

That means its 2 billion users will see fewer news articles, viral videos and other media content. Instead, they’ll see more baby pictures and status updates from your aunt or coworker. The change is the biggest tweak the social network has made to the news feed — essentially the soul of Facebook — in years.

The idea is to allow people to have more “meaningful interactions” and to try to make sure their well-being isn’t hurt by spending time on Facebook. Last month, the company released a report how people consume content on Facebook and the different ways it can be positive or negative for you. Passively scrolling and reading things can have negative effects, whereas being more interactive — “liking” posts and writing comments — can be positive.

“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 on his Facebook page. “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

Facebook has been under intense scrutiny as it grapples with its scale and influence. Its almighty algorithms have the power to decide what people see online, and the thinking is that can have an effect on how they view the world. The company, along with rivals Twitter and Google, have been in the hot seat with lawmakers for the role the platform played in the 2016 election. Russian trolls abused the service to try to sway the result and sow discord among Americans.

Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said his annual challenge for the year is to “fix” some of the problems that have spread on Facebook, like hate and abuse. He teased the upcoming change by saying one of the goals is “making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.”

On Thursday, Zuckerberg also acknowledged that, in the short term, the company’s business could take a hit as a result of the change. For example, publishers, businesses and other brands rely on Facebook’s new feed for distribution. Still, Facebook felt this was an important move to make anyway.

“By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable,” he wrote. “And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”

Updated, 5:22 p.m. PT: Adds more information throughout.

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