December 4, 2021
“The Algorithm” that journalists and politicians alike express disdain towards is a misnomer. There is no singular, omniscient algorithm that rules users. Our interactions on Facebook (and, by extension, Instagram) are developed through a series of processes with different functions and classification methods.
As soon as we open Facebook, we see the “News Feed,” simply dubbed by frequent users as “the Feed.” To decide which pieces of content are shown, Facebook utilizes a four-step approach.
First, an algorithm examines the inventory. This supply consists of all the possible content one can see, including posts from family and friends, results that align with the user’s interests, and targeted ads. Users used to see this personalized curation of information as a massive benefit. Recently, however, this same system has been dubbed exploitative as the stigma against personal data collection grows.
The program goes on to gather “signals” that categorize content based on the account that posted it; how the user has interacted with this account in the past; and whether the post is a video, link, or photo. These signals are used to predict how relevant content is to the individual and their likelihood of interacting with it.
Based on predictions made from signals, a specific score is assigned to the post. Then, they are arranged from the highest score (most interest) to the lowest (least interest) when one’s feed is refreshed.