A year that witnessed several twists and turns, especially post the deadly havoc that COVID-19 created in 2020. Cut to 2021, there was a sudden wave of direct communication and social responsibility. Many transformations went underway across categories and social media platforms became the beacon of change.
News started flooding in and people started consuming more content while staying indoors. Communication became the key and drove accountability. With worldwide users in billion, Facebook took it upon itself to provide greater transparency into how the News Feed ranking process works, what gets distributed, and why.
The social media giant released new features to incorporate direct feedback it got from people who use Facebook by giving them more control over their feeds and reducing negative experiences.
Here are some of the biggest changes and tests Facebook launched in 2021:
- February: new tests to reduce political content in News Feed in response to direct feedback.
- March: the launch of Choose Who Can Comment, Favorites, the Feed Filter Bar, and an expansion of Why Am I Seeing This to suggested posts to provide people more context and control over the content they see and share in News Feed
- April: new tests to incorporate more direct feedback from people who use Facebook about the content they want to see more or less in their News Feed
- May: new options for where and how people can choose to see reaction counts on Facebook and Instagram
- August: Facebook’s first-ever Widely Viewed Content Report to share what content is seen by the most people in News Feed in the US
- September: Content Distribution Guidelines that list content and behaviors that receive reduced distribution in News Feed because they are problematic or otherwise low quality
- November: The second Widely Viewed Content Report and new ways to make News Feed controls easier to find and use for people and advertisers
Facebook claims to continually evaluate the effectiveness of News Feed ranking signals and update or remove them when it makes sense. In December 2021, it removed the transparent authorship signal because it did not have a significant effect on the news ecosystem.
Anna Stepanov, Head of Facebook App Integrity says, “We understand concerns people have about the lack of transparency over how algorithmic ranking systems work, so we’ve introduced new measures to give people more control over, and insight into, how content appears in their News Feed. Heading into the new year, we’ll continue to share updates on our tests and features that aim to give you more control and connect you to meaningful content.”
News Feed uses personalized ranking, which takes into account thousands of unique signals to understand what’s most meaningful to the users. Facebook’s aim isn’t to keep the users scrolling for hours on end, but to give them an enjoyable experience that they want to return to.