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Facebook Reveals How it Decides Which Post to Appear on Top in News Feed

"The basic thing that this tool does is let people see why they are seeing a particular post in their news feed, and it helps them access the actions they might want to take if they want to change that"

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FILE- The logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square, In this March 29, 2018. VOA

Facebook is lifting the lid on the algorithm that decides which posts appear in its news feed, as part of a drive to be more transparent and offer greater control to users.

The feature “Why am I seeing this post?”, being rolled out from Monday, offers some insight into the tens of thousands of inputs used by the social network to rank stories, photos and video in the news feed, the foundation of the platform.

“The basic thing that this tool does is let people see why they are seeing a particular post in their news feed, and it helps them access the actions they might want to take if they want to change that,” Facebook’s Head of News Feed John Hegeman told reporters on Monday.

After a series of privacy scandals, Facebook needs to regain users’ trust as it prepares to roll out a single messaging service combining Facebook messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram that could make it even more central to users’ communications.

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Facebook is also updating its “Why Am I Seeing this Ad?” feature launched a few years ago with additional details. Pixabay

The new news feed feature will show users the data that connect them to a particular type of post, Hegeman said, for example that they are friends with the poster and they’ve liked their posts more than others, they’ve frequently commented on that type of post before, or that the post is popular with users with the same interests.

“We’ve tried to really focus on the signals that are most important and play the biggest role in what causes people to see a post or not,” Hegeman said. “We don’t think this is going to solve everything on the theme of transparency but we think this is an important step.”

Facebook developed the new tool with research groups in New York, Denver, Paris and Berlin, he said, and as a result of feedback Facebook has made it easy for users to access tools to control what is in the news feed themselves.

ALSO READ: Trump Grants National Security to People Rejected by Government for an Array of Concerns

Facebook is also updating its “Why Am I Seeing this Ad?” feature launched a few years ago with additional details, Hegeman said, such as explaining how ads work that target customers using email lists.

The company shifted its strategy for its centerpiece news feed in early 2018 when it decided to prioritize posts from family and friends and downgrade non-advertising content from publishers and brands. (VOA)

Next Story

Google, Facebook Secretly Tracking Your Porn-viewing Habits

“While the findings of this study are far from encouraging, we do believe regulatory intervention may have positive outcomes,” said the researchers

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The Google name is displayed outside the company's office in London, Britain. VOA

If you think watching pornographic material in the “incognito” mode will not let anyone know, you are mistaken. Google, Facebook and even Oracle cloud are secretly tracking the porn you watch even when you switch on the “incognito” mode on your laptop or smartphone.

A new joint study from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pennsylvania that investigated 22,484 sex websites using a tool called “webXray” revealed that 93 per cent of pages track and leak users’ data to third-party organisations.

“Tracking on these sites is highly concentrated by a handful of major companies,” said the researchers who identified 230 different companies and services tracking users in their sample.

Of non-pornography-specific services, Google tracks 74 per cent of sites, Oracle 24 per cent and Facebook 10 per cent.

Porn-specific trackers in the top 10 are exoClick (40 per cent), JuicyAds (11 per cent), and EroAdvertising (9 per cent).

“The majority of non-pornography companies in the top 10 are based in the US, while the majority of pornography-specific companies are based in Europe,” said the study.

The researchers – Elena Maris, Microsoft Research; Timothy Libert, Carnegie Mellon University; and Jennifer Henrichsen, University of Pennsylvania – said they successfully extracted privacy policies for 3,856 sites, 17 per cent of the total.

“The policies were written such that one might need a two-year college education to understand them. The content analysis indicated 44.97 per cent of them expose or suggest a specific gender/sexual identity or interest likely to be linked to the user,” said the study to be published in the journal New Media & Society.

The team created a hypothetical profile named “Jack” who decides to view porn on his laptop.

Corporate, America, Climate Change
FILE – In this April 30, 2019, file photo, Facebook stickers are laid out on a table at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, Calif. The Boston-based renewable energy developer Longroad Energy announced in May that Facebook is building a… VOA

Jack enables “incognito” mode in his browser, assuming his actions are now private. He pulls up a site and scrolls past a small link to a privacy policy. Assuming a site with a privacy policy will protect his personal information, Jack clicks on a video.

“What Jack does not know is that incognito mode only ensures his browsing history is not stored on his computer. The sites he visits, as well as any third-party trackers, may observe and record his online actions,” the researchers noted.

These third-parties may even infer Jack’s sexual interests from the URLs of the sites he accesses. They might also use what they have decided about these interests for marketing or building a consumer profile. They may even sell the data.

Jack has no idea these third-party data transfers are occurring as he browses videos.

“His assumption that porn websites will protect his information, along with the reassurance of the ‘incognito’ mode icon on his screen, provide Jack a fundamentally misleading sense of privacy as he consumes porn online,” wrote the researchers.

The above hypothetical scenario occurs frequently in reality and is indicative of the widespread data leakage and tracking that can occur on porn sites, they added.

Also Read: Instagram to Now Alert Violators Before Deleting Accounts

In 2017, Pornhub, one of the largest porn websites, received 28.5 billion visits, with users performing 50,000 searches per second on the site.

Statistics vary as to the amount of overall porn activity on the internet, but a 2017 report indicated porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined, and that “30 per cent of all the data transferred across the Internet is porn”, with site YouPorn using six times more bandwidth than Hulu.

“While the findings of this study are far from encouraging, we do believe regulatory intervention may have positive outcomes,” said the researchers. (IANS)