Facebook, clickbait, and the strange notion that it knows what we want

Young lady in green shirt unable to control her laughter

You have to love headlines that read ‘Facebook tackles clickbait in News Feed, and what happened next blew my mind’. Thank you Jamie Davies.

Of course, clickbait is a problem, but is it right that Facebook should be judge and jury over what is promoted and what is not? Generally speaking the ‘what happens next blew my mind’ type posts are shared by ‘friends’ (or at least people that you know or know of). Surely the democratic way of dealing with crap on Facebook (other social media sites are available – but not many) is for its users to be able to filter it out? To an extent that happens. Or so we believe.

The official line seems to be, according to Mr Davies, quoting the company blog “to show people the stories most relevant to them — ranking stories so that what’s most important to each person shows up highest in their News Feeds.”

So that’s OK then.

Clearly Facebook is absolutely brilliant at showing us things that are absolutely, completely what we want to see. Not. They are absolutely rubbish at it, and they use their users as their product, peddling advertising on the back of definitions of ‘views’ that makes the brain freeze. The Media Rating Council says that a ‘view’ is when half of an advert is viewable for one second. A video is deemed to have been viewed if half of it is viewable and is rolling for two seconds. So, most adverts that we all scroll past as fast as we can in order to avoid them, we have viewed. Not.

As Doc Searls said in our recent interview, “on Facebook I am still getting adverts that are, frankly, fraudulent. The notion that we would want to participate with something that drunk on its own success is ludicrous”.

Searls believes that this is changing and the user is beginning to retake control of his ship, but it will take time.

In the meantime, are we supposed to believe that Facebook, recently investigated about bias in its political postings, should be the judge of what we want. They do not know what we want. And they have just announced that they will use technology to block the ad blockers as well.

Worse, it is not even people who will do the filtering, it is their advanced AI systems. The very same that serve us the crap on a daily basis.

Of course, one day AI and machines will be able to deliver roughly what we want. But until that day comes, Facebook and the arena that is rather comically referred to as the online advertising world will continue to enjoy being drunk on their own success.

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