Facebook are going to start to add emphasis on content that sparks conversations among family and friends, and make posts from businesses, brands and media less prominent.
In a move to try and tackle fake news, Mark Zuckerberg wrote: “ We’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,”
Organisations on Facebook may see the popularity of their posts decrease as a result, the firm acknowledged. The changes will take effect over the coming weeks.
The Facebook CEO said that he and his team felt a responsibility to make sure Facebook was good for people’s wellbeing.
If public content is to be promoted, it will now have to be seen to encourage community interaction – as happens within the tight-knit groups that discuss TV programmes and sports, he said.
Another example given by Facebook in a separate post was live video feeds, which tend to generate much discussion.
“By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down,” added Mr Zuckerberg.
“But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”
Dave Lee, BBC’s North American Technology Correspondent analysed the situation:
In many ways this is Facebook getting back to its roots, making your news feed more about what your friends are creating and thinking, rather than articles they have shared.
For the first time, Mark Zuckerberg is making a major decision that goes against one of his long-held beliefs: any change to the network must have the goal of improving engagement. This move, he concedes, will likely lead to people spending less time on the site.
But after a tough 2017, Mr Zuckerberg is perhaps learning now that in the wake of the fake news scandal, and a platform brimming with tedious clickbait, not all engagement is good engagement.
Faced with the enormous task of having to do more to moderate what’s happening on his network, Mr Zuckerberg may have come to the conclusion that having a news free-for-all is becoming more trouble than it’s worth.
For news organisations and publications, this might spell bad news: a lot of traffic comes from Facebook. With less prominence, expect some viral sites to very quickly go out of business.
The new change of course will cost Facebook money. Mr Zuckerberg warned investors at the end of last year that combating fake news would hurt the firm’s bottom line. The question now is: by how much?