Content Marketing Blog

Facebook users ignore content they don’t agree with [STUDY]

Facebook users tend to ignore content that doesn’t line up with their existing points of view, according to a new study published in the journal, Science.

Eytan Bakshy and his colleagues on the Facebook Data Science Team looked at how a pool of ten million Facebook users interacted with different types of content.

They wanted to understand how user preferences compared to Facebook’s own algorithms when it comes to filtering content.

Facebook is popular source for news content

Facebook is the world’s largest social network with more than one billion users worldwide. It is an increasingly popular destination for people to find, read and share news content.

Figures from Pew Research published earlier this year revealed that 50 per cent of US adults who use Facebook use it to get their news fix.

Facebook content bubbles

With Facebook playing a bigger and bigger role in what people consume online, the Facebook Data Science Team wanted to know if the social network was creating “content bubbles” around its users, with only stories they already agreed with getting through.

The study revealed that Facebook’s algorithms, which use information about users to serve up content they’re more likely to click on, only filtered out around 15 per cent of news stories that conflicted with the user’s opinions.

However, the user’s own preferences – the links they chose to click and those they ignored – blocked around 70 per cent of “challenging” content.

Facebook better at serving up challenging content

Bakshy and his team concluded that where content bubbles did exist, it was much more likely to be the user’s own actions that created them, rather than anything Facebook was doing with its algorithms.

In fact, the researchers said Facebook “probably presents individuals with more ideological-challenging ideas than most blogs and news wires”.

Bakshy added: “One thing that surprised us, in light of the social norms against talking about politics in polite conversation, was just how much cross-cutting content is shared.”

Instant Articles and Add A Link

Facebook is keen to expand the role it has in sharing, commenting and creation when it comes to news content. Earlier this month it announced Instant Articles, a partnership with nine leading news publishers that will see exclusive content made available within the Facebook environment.

Instant Articles allows users to get access to interesting news stories quickly, without the need to follow a link and wait for a separate browser window to load. For the publishers, there is a chance to share advertising revenue and get access to Facebook’s vast and growing mobile audience.

Facebook is also trialling a new feature called Add A Link that gives users the option of searching for content already shared on Facebook, rather than going out on the internet and copying the URL of whatever they want to share.

Add A Link is still in the testing phase, but like Instant Articles, it has the potential to keep users on Facebook and avoid the risk that links to external content will take people off to a competitor.

It also allows users to tap into the massive haul of user-generated content Facebook has indexed. Google and other search engines are unable to get to most of that, because it’s behind a log-in.