Beware Facebook’s subtle, auto-generated news bias

Between the user's personal worldview and Facebook's algorithm for suggested news, the partiality generated on Facebook limits what the user sees, crafting a skewed worldview.

(Photo by Christian Herrera)
(Photo by Christian Herrera)

Facebook has become more than just seeing what your friends are up to. In recent years, it has become a way for news to spread quickly across the globe with a click of a button. It’s become a place where the user can choose the kind of news they see. Or has it? Unconsidered by many is the possibility Facebook is selecting a specific array of articles for you to choose from ahead of time.

There is an algorithm for the news Facebook promotes on their feed. According to the Facebook Newsroom, the news feed suggests posts based on how much time you spend online reading related material.

A 2015 study published in the journal “Science” revealed that Facebook’s algorithm and suggested content — combined with the knowledge of what the individual spends time reading on Facebook — can effectively produce a shift in the political views expressed.

Besides promoting posts reflecting users’ preferences, Facebook’s news feed also reduces content with alternate views. The data revealed that the algorithm reduced presentation of opposing political views shared by friends by five to eight percent. The algorithm thus presents media that is partial to your personal beliefs.

When considering social media as a source for news, it is important that people recognize and are critical of bias. This is especially important when observing current and impacting news — particularly the approaching election. Think about how much of your political views are based on posts from your news feed.

Facebook makes it easy for people to see what they want to see. Next time you scroll through opinions and shared links on your news feed, remember how much of what you see on Facebook is not totally up to you.

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