Update will push down viral stories that people don't want to see, based on surveys of "tens of thousands" of people a day.
Sometimes a lot of likes, comments and shares is not enough. Facebook wants to make sure people actually like the viral stories that pop up in their News Feeds.
Today, the social network announced an algorithm update that will rank viral stories lower if enough people indicate that they are not interested in seeing them.
“It’s hard to predict when or why posts go viral,” Facebook wrote on its News Feed FYI blog. “Sometimes this happens because lots of people are really interested in seeing that particular post. However, sometimes a post goes viral and many people tell us that they weren’t interested in seeing it, despite lots of people liking, sharing and commenting on it.”
Facebook says it will determine that based on answers to the News Feed preference surveys it puts to tens of thousands of people daily.
Some of the surveys ask people to compare two stories that might appear in their feeds. If their answers match how the stories would have been ranked, Facebook sees that as a positive signal — and vice versa.
Among the viral stories, Facebook users say they don’t want to see are hoaxes, for instance, the Facebook copyright canard that makes the rounds several times a year. So such stories, despite high numbers of likes, comments and shares, will be pushed lower in News Feeds, Facebook says.
With this update, if a significant amount of people tell us they would prefer to see other posts more than that particular viral post, we’ll take that into account when ranking, so that viral post might show up lower in people’s feeds in the future, since it might not actually be interesting to people. With the hoaxes example, if the majority of people taking the survey say they would rather see another story in their feed than the viral hoax story, then we’ll infer the story might not be as interesting, and show the viral story lower down in people’s feeds in the future.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has tweaked the algorithm to go after hoaxes and viral stories. In the last several years, the company has made numerous adjustments taking aim at low-quality memes, click-bait and like-baiting, and last January introduced a new way for people to report posts containing hoaxes.
“If there is a viral story that people do choose to see in the survey, there will be no change to how it is ranked. As viral posts are typically anomalies, and not an important part of distribution for Pages, we don’t think this change will impact your Page’s distribution.”