Many, many Facebook users still don’t know that their news feeds are filtered by an algorithm

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Last year I did the “stop liking things on Facebook” challenge/experiment. Instead of clicking “like” I commented on posts I liked or were of interest to me.

The resulting feed was more of what I wanted to see and of what the algorithm chose for me.

But, as a creature of habit, I went back to clicking and my feed changed back to what the algorithm decided I should see. Sigh.


For heavy Facebook users, let alone social media gurus, the idea that Facebook’s news feed is filtered by an algorithm is very, very old news. But a majority of everyday Facebook users in a recent study had no idea that Facebook constructs their experience, pushing certain posts into their stream and leaving others out. And worse, many participants blamed themselves, not Facebook’s software, when friends or family disappeared from their news feeds.

“In the extreme case, it may be that whenever a software developer in Menlo Park adjusts a parameter, someone somewhere wrongly starts to believe themselves to be unloved,” wrote a team of researchers led by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign doctoral student Motahhare Eslami, in a new paper on Facebook’s news feed algorithm.

The new qualitative research study sampled 40 Facebook users and ran them through an in-depth examination of the ways that Facebook filters their experience. Twenty-five of the users—or more than 60 percent…

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