Facebook reportedly gave the angry emoji 5 times as much weight as a 'like'

(Image credit: DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images)

Facebook reportedly sparked internal concern and debate after tweaking its algorithm to make reactions — including anger — five times more important than "likes."

The company made this change to its algorithm giving emoji reactions five times the weight of likes in 2017, The Washington Post reported, citing company documents. The idea was to boost content that sparked engagement and interaction from users, but "Facebook's own researchers were quick to suspect a critical flaw," the Post writes. As one staffer warned, this could lead to a "higher ratio of controversial than agreeable content" in users' news feeds, opening "the door to more spam/abuse/clickbait inadvertently." Another Facebook staffer at the time reportedly acknowledged this was "possible."

Facebook data scientists by 2019 determined posts that earn angry emojis were more likely to include misinformation, toxicity, and low quality news, meaning "Facebook for three years systematically amped up some of the worst of its platform, making it more prominent in users' feeds and spreading it to a much wider audience," the Post writes. In 2018, Facebook reportedly cut the weight of the anger emoji to four times that of likes. The company eventually gave the anger emoji a weight of zero, which it continues to have today, while the "love" and "sad" emojis became worth two likes.

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This was the latest report to come out of a series of documents provided to Congress by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, who has accused Facebook of prioritizing profits over users' safety. A Facebook spokesperson told the Post that "we continue to work to understand what content creates negative experiences, so we can reduce its distribution," including "content that has a disproportionate amount of angry reactions." Read more at The Washington Post.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.