Facebook on Thursday announced a series of tools to help both users and advertisers customize and control what they see in their news feeds and -- more importantly -- what they do not see.
With a focus on customization, Facebook said new options in its news feed preferences setting will enable users to increase or reduce the amount of content they see from friends and family, as well as the groups, pages, and topics they are connected to.
Existing controls like “Favorites,” “Snooze,” “Unfollow,” and “Reconnect” will also be easier to access. Facebook said it will begin testing the changes in the coming weeks with a small percentage of people in countries around the world.
For advertisers, Facebook announced a “topic exclusion” control enabling them to select a specific topic to help define how Facebook will show an ad on its platform. Three topics initially are available: “News and Politics,” “Social Issues,” and “Crime and Tragedy.”
By selecting one or more of these topics, advertisers’ ads will not be delivered to people engaging with those topics in their news feed.
According to a recent statement, early testing shows advertisers who excluded “News and Politics” avoided adjacency to the topic 94% of the time. Those who excluded “Crime and Tragedy” avoided adjacency to the topic 99% of the time, and the same percentage applied to those who excluded “Social Issues.”
Users will also be able to opt out of ad topics in their ads preferences settings.
Working with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), Facebook said it will begin exploring and testing a new content-based suitability control for its news feed. This is in response to advertisers’ concerns that their ads are appearing alongside incompatible content.
“We see this product as a bridge between what we can offer today and where we hope to go -- content-based controls,” the company said in a statement.
“Providing advertisers control over the content their ads appear next to is incredibly important work for us, and to our commitment to the industry via GARM,” added Samantha Stetson, vice president of client council and industry trade relations at Facebook parent Meta. “We’re excited to be able to give advertisers more choice in the news feed brand suitability controls available to them -- especially as we start to develop and test a content-based control next year. It will take time but it’s the right work to do.”
Amidst these moves toward content control on Facebook’s news feed, its parent company, Meta, did not mention the plague of misinformation made visible by the leaked “Facebook Papers,” or the hate speech still rampant in Myanmar and India.
Facebook said the news feed control changes will launch in 2022, with updates beginning in the first quarter..