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Facebook tinkers with its News Feed to show you more ‘informative stories’

Facebook is once again upgrading its News Feed in an effort to further distance you from clickbait by instead placing the emphasis on enlightening content.

The social network announced on Thursday that it is implementing a new “ranking signal” that can predict the type of stories users find most “informative, so that they appear higher on the News Feed.

Facebook realizes that its users have differing interests and that a homogeneous News Feed cannot cater to its massive user base. Consequently, the platform claims it is using feedback from the tens of thousands of users surveyed as part of its Feed Quality Program, combined with its individual user data, to create an evolving system.

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Facebook asked its survey participants to look at stories in their feed and rank them on a scale of one to five — one being “really not informative” and five being “really informative.”

The results showed that people based their judgments of a story on several factors, such as whether it matches their interests, if it engages them in a broader discussion, and if it contains news about the world around them. Categorizing the stories helped the social network create a new “predictive” system that can serve up more informative content.

Facebook will combine this “signal” with your user data, taking into account factors such as your relationship with the person or publisher that posted the story, or what you tend to click on, comment on, or share. This method, according to the company, will allow it to “best predict stories that you might personally find informative.” Facebook claims that this bespoke system will serve up different stories catered to your interests over time.

“One of our News Feed values is that the stories in your feed should be informative. What makes someone feel informed about the world is personal,” states Facebook in a blog post. “This could be a news article on a current event, a story about your favorite celebrity, a piece of local news, a review of an upcoming movie, a recipe or anything that informs you.”

The update is another sign of Facebook’s changing attitude toward publishers, and the type of content it envisions as suitable for its platform. Just last week, Facebook announced that it was stepping up its efforts to stamp out clickbait (or what it terms “misleading” content) on its News Feed. The move was problematic, to say the least, as it relied on superficial factors, such as an article’s heading, to determine what constituted as clickbait.

Another flaw in the company’s logic centers on its obsession with personalization. It could be argued that by constantly personalizing what you see Facebook will never offer you the chance to discover something truly new and informative — or enlightening content that you otherwise wouldn’t read. A diverse social media feed has been proven to generate better ideas. This, however, can only be achieved through an open-minded approach to curation with the onus on the user. Facebook, on the other hand, seems intent on decreasing the space for maneuverability on its News Feed.