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Inside Facebook

Inside Facebook (Aug 2nd, 2017)

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Facebook has altered its News Feed algorithm to take into account how quickly a web page loads on a user's mobile device. Stories that load slowly will see their reach decreased, with faster-loading stories prioritized. Facebook product manager Greg Marra says, "It’s a pretty generous definition [of fast]. Most of the things that you’re going to be reading on your phone are going to be considered fast in our definition.” However, Recode suggests that Facebook is making the change to boost the reach of its Instant Articles, a charge Marra denied, while admitting, "Instant Articles do load pretty quickly."  He added that external articles that load quickly would find as much favor under the algorithm as any Instant Article pieces. – RECODE

Facebook has made slight progress addressing diversity in its staff over the past year. Women now make up 35 percent of the social media company's workforce, up from 33 percent. In technical roles, 19 percent are women, an increase from 17 percent. Only 3 percent of Facebook's employees are African-American, which is up from last year's 2 percent. And only 5 percent are Hispanic, up from 4 percent. In terms of technical and leadership roles, African-Americans and Hispanics saw even less improvement.– USAT

Gizmodo refutes wild claims that Facebook shut down an AI program because it was getting "dangerously smart." Often quoted in the more alarmist stories is a passage of "dialogue" between two Facebook chat bots named Bob and Alice, who seemed to have developed a "pretty creepy" way of communicating with each other. Gizmodo's Tom McKay says the two bots were performing the exact "prosaic" task they were designed for: the development of negotiation skills that could convincingly stand in for a human in arriving at fair compromises. The odd language Bob and Alice were quoted as speaking was due to the developers not programming the bots to consistently speak in a way an English-speaking human could understand. – GIZMODO

Facebook has opened up public sharing for its Stories platform. Previously only available for viewing by the individual user's friends, Facebook Stories can now be made accessible to public followers. The new feature was first pointed out by social media researcher Carlos Gil, and a spokesman for Facebook has confirmed that the addition of a Privacy switch to the Stories features was quietly introduced a few weeks ago. TechCrunch's Josh Constine points out that allowing for public views of Stories enables "the potential to mint or popularize internet celebrities the same way Snapchat and Instagram Stories can." – TC

Ahead of a controversial general election in Kenya, Facebook is adding a tool to its platform in the country to help users identify fake news stories. The information will be available in English and Swahili at the top of a user's News Feed, and will serve as a collection of pointers regarding identifying fake news items. Fake news has been a particular problem in Kenyan politics recently, with one outlet falsifying the headline of a major newspaper to read that one candidate had switched parties when he had not. Also, late last month, faked CNN and BBC videos made the rounds, asserting incorrectly that sitting president Uhuru Kenyatta was dominating polls. – QUARTZ AFRICA

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