Facebook tests giving more control of News Feed content to users again

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Facebook parent company Meta said it is testing new ways for users to customize the content they see in their News Feeds. The company said in a blog post Thursday that the test, available to a “small percentage” of users to start, would allow people to adjust their preferences to increase or reduce the amount of content they see from specific friends, family, groups, and pages they’re connected with on the platform.

Facebook has tweaked the way the News Feed presents content numerous times in the past several years and seems to keep rethinking what content should be prioritized and why. In 2015, it said it was changing News Feeds to favor content from close friends over that from brands and publishers. In 2016, Facebook said again it would adjust its algorithm so posts from friends would get priority over publishers. Then in 2018, the company said it was changing the News Feed so posts that might spark “back and forth discussion” (aka engagement, which is Facebook’s bread-and-butter) would be more likely to appear than more passive content.

Guess what Facebook did in 2020? Well, a few things, but also it tweaked the News Feed yet again, this time to favor more trustworthy and quality news sources. It rolled back that “nicer” version of the News Feed in December 2020 to the reported chagrin of some Facebook employees.

How the social media giant controls its News Feed has largely been a mystery, but Facebook released a report in September it said would give the public some insights into how it decides what content it suppresses, or “demotes” — like clickbait and posts from those who repeatedly violate its rules.

But now users in the new test will be able to turn down the volume on friends, family, pages, and groups in their News Feeds if they prefer. Meta said in the blog post that this was “part of our ongoing work to give people more control over News Feed, so they see more of what they want and less of what they don’t.” Sounds great! Again!

Facebook is also going to make changes to news controls for its business customers, expanding the “topic exclusion” controls to a test group of advertisers that run ads in English. The advertisers can select from three topic groups — news and politics, social issues, and crime and tragedy— so that they can prevent their ads from appearing near posts about those topics if they prefer.

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