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April 1, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:35am

Facebook to explain how algorithm picked content on users’ news feeds

By Freddy Mayhew

Facebook is to begin explaining to users why they are seeing certain posts on their news feed in an attempt to make the platform easier to understand.

The social network has announced it is to start offering users a “why am I seeing this post?” tab, which they can click on to see how Facebook‘s algorithms decided it was a relevant post.

The site has also announced an update to its advertising tools which will enable users to more transparently see how they were targeted by an advertiser on the site.

Both tools will be accessible from the drop-down menu in the top right-hand corner of any post or advert on the news feed of the social media platform.

The new news feed tab will show a user’s recent activity that helped the site’s algorithms reach its decision, including any links or interactions with the posting account and if they have a history of reading posts from that account.

Facebook said the new feature was designed to help users “better understand and more easily control what you see from friends, pages and groups in your news feed”.

The firm also announced it was updating its similar “why am I seeing this ad?” tool so that users can see how advertisers can use existing customer lists to show adverts to people on the platform.

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Advertisers are able to upload lists of existing customer information – such as email addresses or phone numbers – to help target their advertising.

Facebook said this process takes place without revealing any identifiable information but added the new tool would more clearly show how this process took place.

Ahead of the European Union elections due to take place in May, Facebook has already said any advertisers in the EU will undergo tighter checks, which will require documents confirming their identity and location to be submitted, amid fears of foreign interference.

The company said all adverts relating to politics and issues on both Facebook and Instagram in the EU must be clearly labelled, including who funded the advert.

Writing on the company’s blog, Facebook product manager Ramya Sethuraman said: “Both of these updates are part of our ongoing investment in giving people more context and control across Facebook. We will continue to listen to your feedback and evolve these features over time.”

The announcement follows founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s acknowledgement that social media requires more regulation.

In an article published online in the Washington Post over the weekend, Zuckerberg said there was a need for governments and regulators to have “a more active role” and that he believes new regulation is needed in four areas – harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.

Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

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