02 PM | 28 Aug

The Next Generations of Facebook’s News Feed

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What if, instead of relying on platforms like Facebook to invisibly turn the digital knobs that make each person’s News Feed look different, Facebook users could subscribe to different algorithms—formulas designed by humans who could explain their approach?

Publishing has long been about filtering information and bundling content, but it was human editors choosing story packages and placing them on websites or paper. But the specific stories were the body to the publication’s spirit. Subscribing to an algorithm would be subscribing to the sensibility of a publication, or as much of it as could be transmitted by algorithmic filtering.

“What they really want to control is the ability to show you ads.”

“You just have a couple players that are generating massive amounts of content at scale—or in the case of Facebook, controlling massive amounts of content,” said Nicholas Diakopoulos, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland who studies algorithmic accountability. “But if we have a more plug-and-play approach, maybe we can allow smaller algorithm-purveyors to flourish.”

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