How to think about Facebook & its Algorithm

The recent debate about Facebook’s impact on politics and being easily manipulated by others (Russians for example) has resulted in a lot of outrage. Increasingly, when I think about Facebook and it’s algorithm, I use the following questions as my framework.1. Algorithms are simple and mostly dumb, and that is why they are easily gamed.

  • Algorithms reflect what we do on Facebook.
  • The algorithms weaponize outrage at network speed.
  • Despite hoarding mountain-sized data, Facebook still is at a primitive understanding of how to use data as a raw product. And perhaps that is why it is being out-hustled by the hustlers of the 21st century.
  • Former President Obama warned Mark Zuckerberg about the Russian involvement and hijacking of the platform. Mark ignored it, whether in naiveté or just absolute belief in their own system. Either way it showed a complete and utter disregard for someone with deeper understanding of the world.
  • Facebook is a commercial entity and thus its primary interest is to keep people hooked on Facebook & make money.
  • Facebook has a history of pushing the envelope on things. – whether it is privacy or its policies or product changes — and then back tracking with a mealy mouth apology, and doing the same thing again with new branding. I call this The Zuck Doctrine and as a result I don’t have desire to take the company on its face value.
  • I find that Facebook has become a net negative to my life and as a result, I am going to step back from the service, even if it makes me miss out on social interactions.

Like I told Olivia Solon of The Guardian,

“You hear all the platitudes about Facebook connecting the planet, but to say they are doing it for benevolent reasons is absolute nonsense. It’s about connecting commerce, not people,”

I have been harping about these challenges facing Facebook and its role in socio-economic fabric of society. And really glad that more and more folks are waking up to this.

September 27, 2017, San Francisco