Facebook pulls back the curtain on its newsfeed algorithm

Image credit: Facebook (Image credit: Facebook)

Bewildered by the content, ads or posts being shown on your Facebook timeline – or just want to know why you see some posts over others? Facebook is pulling back the veil on the algorithm powering its Newsfeed, making it easier for users to see how content is being tailored to them.

In a post on Facebook's Newsroom blog, the social media giant detailed some of the new information users could learn about posts on their personal Newsfeed – whether they liked a certain page, shared a certain article, or became friends with a specific Facebook user.

By clicking on the three-dot menu in the upper-right corner of any post, users can access the info, as well as be prompted to take action off the back of what they learn: unfollow a certain page, alter their preferences, or clarify that they don't want to keep seeing posts on a certain topic.

The move is effectively an expansion of Facebook's existing 'Why am I seeing this ad?' feature, which shows what previous actions or demographic information (age, interests, etc) had led to you being showed particular sponsored content – but will now include posts from friends or the pages you follow as well as advertisements.

The feature has launched in the US, while a source close to Facebook said it would be rolled out globally by May.

That's private

Privacy is a hot topic in the world of social media, especially with regards to Facebook.

The past year has seen some high profile data breaches, as well as a growing distrust of how social media companies handle user information. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has even been pulled in front of Congress to explain some of the site's dubious practices – and users are increasingly concerned over how and why certain content is tailored to them.

In a video posted on the blog, a Facebook spokesperson assures us that we can "take more control of that content in the future [and] help you customize what you see on your screen."

This show of transparency may be just that – a show – but in the short term at least users will have the chance to better understand what Facebook knows about them, and whether they want to do anything about it.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.