Social media’s power over news and its consumers

June 06, 2016 / by / 0 Comment
  • SumoMe

Gone are the days when adult consumers spend their mornings reading newspapers to know what’s happening around them. Even the baby boomers—those who personally experience the publication world’s transition to digital—just like many adult millennials, would rather go straight to the internet to get news. Indeed, almost every online consumer uses social media for this purpose. The reason is pretty explainable: it’s faster.

Social media platforms—especially Facebook—are aware that they have become people’s go-to place for news. Regrettably, some think that social media platforms have somewhat abused this power to censor or filter their respective newsfeeds for personal reasons and gain.

It all started when tech site Gizmodo reported that news curators at Facebook deliberately suppress news that matter to the conservatives. This includes injecting anti-conservative and pro-liberal stories to the feed, which means blatantly bypassing algorithm design, as well as inserting Facebook-centric stories probably to boost the company’s reputation.

Of course, Facebook denied these allegations. VP for search Tom Stocky said that there’s no evidence that manipulations of any kind are happening at the company and within its algorithm. “Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to systematically discriminate against sources of any ideological origin and we’ve designed our tools to make that technically not feasible,” he told Tech Crunch.

Nonetheless, manipulation is a harsh word, suggested The New York Times writer Zeynep Tufekci. “Facebook is biased. That’s true. But not in the way conservative critics say it is. The social network’s powerful newsfeed is programmed to be viral, clicky, upbeat or quarrelsome,” she wrote.

Hence, it’s all about algorithm issues, as it is programmed according to what really is the talk of the town at the moment, of what people posts, what publishers publish, and which among these will get the highest comments, likes, and shares. The “political bias” that accusers claim is largely rooted in a simple fact that it is election time and everyone has a say to one’s political belief. After all, allegations didn’t just come from the conservatives, but also from the liberals, which means complainants have just the tendency to see what they want or choose to see.

This fast-expanding issue, in turn, serves as a challenge to news reader and curation apps. Amid the growing number of apps being created, the problem of user retention remains high among developers who want to help consumers wean off from traditional online browsing and go straight to news-dedicated apps instead.

A new study on mobile apps revealed that only one in four mobile users will use a mobile app more than once after downloading. The study blatantly said that apps have yet to become a sustainable model save for a few successful apps that managed to revolutionize existing niches and segments—among which is Born2Invest, the fastest growing news app on the market today.

“That’s why it’s imperative for news-focused apps to determine what key features of the industry they might want to alter, improve, or radically change to make a resounding brand,” commented CEO Dom Einhorn. The company has capitalized on becoming the first ever multilingual and global news source for business and finance on the market—a need that has been unanswered and a market unpenetrated even by giant companies such as Apple and Facebook in the past years. Born2Invest, now available in more than 20 languages, is focused on becoming accessible to more than 50 languages in 120 countries within the next 12 months.

Still, it’s now Facebook’s turn to thoroughly explain—and not just deny—how its algorithm really works. Surely there has been a breach of trust, and it’s affecting the end users. Zuckerberg must regain that confidence anew, but will it really push consumers away if he doesn’t? Admit it, a large fraction of online consumers has become Facebook-dependent, and to simply stay away from it on an impulse is rather implausible, difficult to do.



Leah Marie Angelou is an LGBTI activist, equality advocate, and has been a writer for several feminism-focused groups since 21. She is of African and Taiwanese decent. She now teaches microfinancing to various low-income communities across the East Coast.