only for now?
Facebook employees reportedly argue for making post-election 'calmer, less divisive' news feed permanent
Facebook reportedly tweaked its algorithm after the election in a way that resulted in a "calmer" news feed — and some employees are pushing for this to become the new normal.
After seeing election misinformation going viral following Election Day, Facebook instituted an "emergency" algorithm change that involved having authoritative news appear more prominently in users' feeds, The New York Times reports. The algorithm was reportedly adjusted to give greater weight to "news ecosystem quality" scores, which Facebook uses to rank publishers based on journalism quality. As a result, the Times reports, mainstream publications like CNN, The New York Times, and NPR received a "spike in visibility," while partisan pages like Breitbart and Occupy Democrats were less visible.
"It was a vision of what a calmer, less divisive Facebook might look like," the Times writes. "Some employees argued the change should become permanent, even if it was unclear how that might affect the amount of time people spent on Facebook. In an employee meeting the week after the election, workers asked whether the 'nicer news feed' could stay."
Facebook executives, however, have said that that its election changes were "always meant to be temporary."
The Times' report also includes details about some other changes Facebook reportedly considered, one of which would retroactively inform more users that they shared misinformation, something that's now done specifically with COVID-19 misinformation. But according to the Times, this was rejected over concerns it would "disproportionately" affect right-wing sites. Another change that would involve demoting content seen as being "bad for the world" reportedly was shown to lead to a decrease in sessions, so Facebook approved a different change leaving "more objectionable posts" in news feed while not decreasing sessions.
A Facebook executive denied that those were the reasons for the features being rejected, telling the Times, "No News Feed product change is ever solely made because of its impact on time spent."