Facebook Will Rank Hoax Viral Stories Lower In News Feed

Facebook tweaks News Feed algorithm for making the platform better using users' inputs about hoax viral stories

Facebook’s experiments with its News Feed will not cease ever. Facebook loyalists will say that it is for the betterment of the platform but cynics like me will say it is also for keeping brands happy. In this year itself Facebook has tweaked the News Feed more than six times. At times it was to make the News Feed interesting for users and other times it was to help brands get more eyeballs. Read - 6 Recent Changes By Facebook To Make Your News Feed Smarter.

Facebook has made an algorithm tweak again and this time it is for the betterment of the platform keeping in mind the user experience. Facebook has announced that it will rank viral stories lower if enough people indicate that they are not interested in seeing them.

“Sometimes stories on Facebook go viral, where millions of people see the same video, photo, or other post. It’s hard to predict when or why posts go viral. Sometimes this happens because lots of people are really interested in seeing that particular post. However, sometimes a post goes viral and many people tell us that they weren’t interested in seeing it, despite lots of people liking, sharing and commenting on it,” said Facebook.

One common example is a type of viral post that people report they don’t enjoy seeing in their News Feed are hoaxes. If there is a viral story about a hoax, it can get a lot of reshares and comments. However Facebook has received feedback that people don’t want to see these stories as much as other posts in their News Feed.

With this update, if a significant amount of people tell Facebook they would prefer to see other posts more than that particular viral post, Facebook will take that into account when ranking, so that viral post might show up lower in people’s feeds in the future, since it might not actually be interesting to people.

Facebook says it will determine that based on answers to the News Feed preference surveys it puts to tens of thousands of people daily.

Some of the surveys ask people to compare two stories that might appear in their feeds. “We compare their answer to the order we would have put these stories in their News Feed. If the story picked is the one News Feed would have shown higher up, that’s a good sign that things are working well. If the story picked is the one we would have put lower down, this highlights an area for improvement.”

This isn’t the first time Facebook has worked on axing hoax content from News Feed. Earlier this year to curtail hoax-busting websites, Facebook added an option for people to report a story they see in News Feed as false. “This works in the same way as reporting a story as spam. When you click to hide a story you also have the option to report the content. Stories that include scams, or deliberately misleading news, are reported two and a half times more often than links to other news stories.”

However, satirical websites were spared from this update as satirical content intended to be humorous, or content that is clearly labeled as satire. The update didn’t affect majority of publishers but only those frequently posting hoaxes and scams saw their distribution decrease.

Publishers posting hoax content on Facebook will have to watch out now, but Facebook has informed that this change isn’t likely to negatively affect reach for Pages, the social networking giant said: “If there is a viral story that people do choose to see in the survey, there will be no change to how it is ranked. As viral posts are typically anomalies, and not an important part of distribution for Pages, we don’t think this change will impact your Page’s distribution.”