Does Facebook treat content from some groups unfairly? It depends on how you define “unfair.” If you mean, “making a rigid effort to constrict any non-politically correct news,” that I would say no.
Or at least, the effort is more haphazard than what folks like Sen. Patrick Leahy would like to see. But if you mean, “the Facebook algorithm making some posts from certain groups appear before others in your Facebook News Feed,” the answer is undoubtedly yes.
Can we know what posts will appear more frequently in the News Feeds of those who have liked a page, for example, the Ethan Allen Institute’s Facebook page? In the “Insights” section of the EAI Facebook account, there is a stat called “reach” which more or less equates with the number of people who see any individual EAI Facebook post, whether that is a video, blog post or infographic. Some EAI posts do better than others. The higher the engagement (more likes, comments and shares), the more individuals
But that can’t be the only part of it. Since July, EAI has seen an sobering 36% drop in reach. This has nothing to do with a mass number of people unfollowing our page- we have have held steady at 4,400 likes for most of 2020. From March to June 2020, an average of about 850 individuals (most of whom fans of the EAI Facebook) saw any specific post from EAI. From July to the present, only 550 individuals saw any specific post. So, we have gone from 1 in 5 fans of EAI seeing a post, to about 1 in 8. That really adds up over time.
Conventional wisdom has it that right leaning groups can’t win- Facebook is too big to care if a small percentage of it’s followers get angry. And that may be true to some extent. But Facebook does give users some flexibility with their News Feed experience, that many people aren’t aware of.
So let’s say you want to see more from groups that Facebook has been showing you less of for awhile.
- Click “News Feed” at the top right of your screen
- Click “Edit Preferences”
- Click “Manage Favorites”
- Click “Pages Only”
- Click “Ethan Allen Institute,” (and any other groups you wish to see more often) you should see a blue circle appear next to the EAI logo
- Click “Done"
Of course, changing your own personal newsfeed is only half the battle. Commenting/liking a post or comment will make that post register as a "higher quality", judging by the mysterious Facebook algorithm, which will in turn make the post appear on more News Feeds for fans of the EAI page. And of course, the almighty "Share" button- the only way we can reach Vermonters outside the 4400 person EAI bubble. If you see something you think your neighbors should know about, please consider sharing it! While Facebook may silence right leaning groups, there are still ways to get around their precautions.
David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute.