Facing critics, Facebook wants feeds to be more ‘meaningful’

Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Reuters)
Updated 12 January 2018
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Facing critics, Facebook wants feeds to be more ‘meaningful’

NEW YORK: Facebook is tweaking what people see to make their time on it more “meaningful” in a move that could hurt publishers and news organizations that rely on it to spread their content.
Facebook has said before that it will emphasize personal connections over business pages and celebrities that people follow. But the latest move represents a major shift, one intended to highlight the posts users are most likely to engage with rather than passively consume.
The company says people will likely spend less time on Facebook as a result.
The changes come as the company faces criticism that social media can make people feel depressed and isolated.
There will be fewer posts from brands, pages and media companies and more from people. There will be fewer videos, which Facebook considers “passive.”
That’s because even if people read such content on Facebook, they don’t necessarily comment or interact with it in other ways.
“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post Thursday.
“We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”
The move to highlight posts that Facebook considers “meaningful” and reduce the emphasis on others could shrink the social media giant’s role as a major news source for many people.
The move will not affect advertisements — users will continue to see the same ads they have before, “meaningful” or not. But businesses that use Facebook to connect with their customers without paying for ads will also feel the pain.
Facebook has long been criticized for creating “filter bubbles,” the echo chambers of friends and like-minded people whose views are reinforced by their friends’ posts on the platform.
The company says that’s similar to how people make friends and interact with each other offline. Facebook says its research shows that users are exposed to more divergent views on its platform than they would be otherwise.
This is difficult to verify independently since the company is cautious about providing data to outsiders.
The changes come after a tough year for Facebook that included congressional hearings on how Russia used it to influence the 2016 US elections. Former executives and Facebook investors have spoken out about how it and other social media sites might be hurting rather than helping society and users’ psyches.
Last week, Zuckerberg said his “personal challenge” for 2018 (something he’s done every year since 2009), will be to fix Facebook.
“Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent,” he wrote.
He said it wasn’t possible to prevent all mistakes or abuses, but that Facebook was making too many errors in enforcing its policies and preventing misuse.


Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

Updated 19 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

  • Broadcast of political messages in coverage forbidden, analyst confirms.
  • Saudi football federation urges FIFA to sanction the Doha-owned channel.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has a justified case in complaining to FIFA over the “politicization” of the World Cup by the Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports, a prominent TV analyst has said.
A flurry of comments by hosts and pundits aired on BeIN’s Arabic station prompted the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to complain to FIFA this week, saying the broadcaster was using the football tournament to spread political messages aimed at insulting Saudi Arabia and its leaders.
In its complaint, the federation called on FIFA to take severe sanctions against the Qatari channel and to abolish the rights granted to the network.
One BeIN commentator accused Saudi Arabia of “selling out the Palestinian cause,” while a Doha-based international footballer invited on the channel was allowed to call for an end to the year-long boycott of Qatar by neighbors Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.
Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, principal TV research analyst at IHS Markit Technology, said that politicized coverage was expressly forbidden by world football’s governing body as well as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
“FIFA and UEFA forbid the transmission of political messages during football matches for which they control the rights. It’s not only comments by the broadcasters — but even banners; everything (political) is forbidden,” the analyst told Arab News.
“So messages about Palestine, about political things, are not allowed.”
Papavassilopoulos said that if there is evidence of such cases, authorities in the Kingdom would be justified in taking the matter to FIFA.
“If there are video clips that show BeIN media personnel speaking against Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia has a case,” he said.
But whether FIFA will take any action against BeIN is another matter. Papavassilopoulos pointed to the fact that BeIN is a valued client of FIFA — it bought the rights to host the World Cup across the Middle East and North Africa — and that Qatar plans to host the tournament in 2022.
“BeIN media is a very good client for FIFA. And don’t forget that Qatar is the country that will host the 2022 World Cup,” he said. “It’s going to be very very hard for FIFA to impose penalties on BeIN media knowing that Qatar will hold the next World Cup.”
Some of the biggest names in Arab sport have signed a petition to protest against BeIN’s politicization of World Cup coverage, urging FIFA President Gianni Infantino to investigate the coverage.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.