How Does Facebook Encourage Swearing?

Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

It’s not about the fact that people often lose themselves on social networks and write more than they would say in real life if the addressee of the words were standing in front of them. That is a common Internet issue, not just Facebook.

But hence Facebook has a peculiarity that actually pushes page administrators to encourage low-quality discussions. All this began long ago and strengthened a year ago.

As it is well known, Facebook has an algorithm, which decides what each of us will see on our news feed and when.

We can have thousands of friends, like hundreds of pages, be forced to become members of thousands of meaningless groups, but on our walls, we will see a strictly limited number of posts.

We need Facebook, in order to not go insane from the enormous amounts of information and not to leave social networks, because we need to place advertisements: that is our real business on Facebook.

Thus, the algorithm individually designs the news feed, based on thousands of criteria, which are called signals on Facebook. Some signals are secret, some have been clarified by the administration. And most importantly, the algorithm is constantly changing, and the impact on people is studied then changed again.

About a year and a half ago, Facebook’s leadership came to the conclusion that people wanted to read more of their friends’ posts than the pages of news websites. And once again reduced the appearance of posts from pages on news feeds.

However, there was one condition that allowed for increasing the display of news.

Facebook emphasizes discussions. If the material on your page receives a lot of comments, it is shown to a larger audience than for example a post which receives a lot of likes but few comments.

The meaning of this approach is simple: if there are a lot of comments, then the topic is interesting. And if the post is interesting for your friends, then there is a great likelihood that it will also be something that you would like and so it appears on your news feed.

Naturally, page admins, who were lamenting when the algorithm was changed because of a sharp drop in visits were noticed, quickly found their footing and began to generate discussions on their pages.  

The famous “will you tell the price?” which has appeared on dozens of different Facebook stores, is the result of all of this. The goal is not to mention the price so that everyone comments the question, and thus affecting the algorithm.

If we move from stores to the field of journalism, we will see that the issue of comments is much more serious. Unfortunately, the comments under articles of a public and political nature are rarely very profound and meaningful.

Mostly they are emotional, and often they contain cursing, swears. Since the audience doesn’t write “normal” comments often, many news organizations and editors are beginning to encourage low-quality discussions. This is done by publishing provocative materials/titles, or through the absence of moderation of the comments section.

That is to say, the comments are not filtered, and every word of hatred or swear easily finds its place under the publications.

The editor prefers to have a large number of “bad” comments since, without moderation and page filtering, the number of site visitors will simply fall.

The Facebook algorithm actually encourages that comments are not filtered, that those who post immoral comments are not blocked, that page content filters are not used.

Since otherwise, Facebook will simply diminish the views. So try not to go crazy as an admin. And try not to bring the rest of us down with you.

Samvel Martirosyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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