Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday that the social media giant would begin emphasizing more "meaningful" content on users' feeds — giving greater weight to posts from friends and family and less to businesses, brands and media.
In a long Facebook post of his own, Zuckerberg stressed that the social media platform — which has more than 2 billion active users worldwide — was created "to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us."
While the move was anticipated, Thursday's announcement filled in more of the details.
"The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health," Zuckerberg wrote. "On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they're entertaining or informative — may not be as good."
The changes come as the company has faced increased criticism for the way its algorithms have allowed the spread of targeted disinformation aimed at disrupting U.S. elections, as well as more general criticisms that over-use of social media can contribute to depression.
Zuckerberg writes that he's directed the company's product teams to shift "from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions."
As Wired notes, "The upshot: The newsfeed algorithm will now give less weight to the popularity of posts and more weight to posts that encourage users to interact and comment. One of the big criticisms of Facebook in the past 18 months is that the content we see in the newsfeed is driven too much by Facebook's obsession with persuading people to spend as much time as possible on Facebook. The more time people spend in the newsfeed, the more ad revenue Facebook makes. That may be good for Facebook, but, according to an increasingly loud chorus of critics, it's not so good for humanity."
According to The Associated Press, "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."