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2017 was a very hectic year for Facebook.
Scandals of false news, erroneous metrics and the revelation of “problematic advertisements” during the US presidential election made him lose credibility and threw a good deal of criticism towards the platform.
Even President Donald Trump came to pronounce on the matter, assuring that “Facebook was always anti-Trump “ , accusations that Mark Zuckerberg, its founder and executive director, denied outright.
But 2018 will be a year of changes. Some changes with which he hopes to wash his image and, in a certain way, return to his beginnings.
As of the next few weeks -Zuckerberg did not confirm the exact date- the wall will look completely different .
Less news, more interaction
One of the main consequences of the change is that the news of companies, brands and media will no longer be as prominent as it has been until now.
Instead, content that encourages conversations between families and friendswill be emphasized, Zuckerberg explained through his Facebook account.
The entrepreneur announced that organizations and entities could see their popularity decline in the social network as a result of the decision.
“We received comments from community members that public content – posts from companies, brands and media – is displacing the personal moments that allow us to connect with each other,” he added.
Zuckerberg also said that he and his team felt the responsibility of making Facebook favor the well-being of its users.
Thus, if public content is going to be promoted, now it must be done to promote interaction among community members, as happens within discussion groups in television programs.
Another example, according to another publication signed by Adam Mosseri, vice president of product of Facebook, is that the live videos that appear on the news wall will also be those that generate more discussion.
“It’s a significant change ,” Laura Hazard Owen, of the Nieman Journalism Laboratory at Harvard University in the United States, told the BBC.
“It will affect the media a lot because we will see much less news on our walls.”
Owen also noted that Facebook has not made clear what kind of discussions willprioritize its algorithm and could end up favoring that “more controversial” or simply content derived from certain pages on specific topics.
Less time, less participation
“With these changes I hope that the time that people spend on Facebook will be reduced and also some participation data,” Zuckerberg added.
“But I also hope that the time they spend on Facebook will be more valuable .”
In a previous publication, Zuckerberg said he intended to “fix” Facebook in 2018 and wanted to ensure that users are protected from abuse and that the time they spend on the site is a time “well spent” .
He also called for defending the platform against “the interference of nation-states,” a reference that seems to point to accusations that Russia tried to interfere in the US presidential election. of 2016, using Facebook and other social networks.
“My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on solving these important problems,” he said.
Gabriel Kahn, of the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of the University of Southern California, told the BBC that Facebook is dealing with these changes to reaffirm its brand value. “
Kahn added that Zuckerberg’s statements were a “clear admission” that Facebook exerts significant power over society .
However, he said that the new priorities could further distort the views and nature of the talks.
“There should be a public debate about the values that apply to that algorithm,” he said.
Analysis by Dave Lee, BBC technology specialist
Facebook is going back to its roots in many ways. It’s making the wall more about what your friends think and believe, and not about the items they share.
For the first time, Mark Zuckerberg made an important decision that goes against one of his traditional beliefs: that any change in the social network should serve to encourage participation.
And he admitted that that will probably make people spend less time on the platform.
But after a hard 2017, it is possible that Zuckerberg is learning now that, after the scandal of false news and a platform full of tedious clickbait (publications to get the attention of the reader), not all levels of engagement (how much they submerge and users participate in social networks) are good .
For the media this can translate into bad news: much less traffic will come from Facebook. And with less prominence, some viral sites are expected to close quickly.
The new change will cost Facebook money. Zuckerberg warned investors at the end of last year that fighting false news would hurt the finances of companies. The question now is: how much?