“Shadow banning” on Facebook is a terrible idea

Last week, Facebook admitted shadow banning some Pages and accounts (such as InfoWars) so that fewer people see the demoted content in the news feed:

Facebook would push it so far down in everyone’s feeds that most of them would not see it.

Here is the obvious problem with this strategy: By doing this, Facebook is creating information ghettos and echo chambers. Since fewer people are seeing content from places like InfoWars fewer people are debunking it. Banning InfoWars from Facebook would only harden the determination of the users while ironically protecting InfoWars from users who could debunk their crap. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. By allowing InfoWars to use the platform and not shadow banning them, Facebook would actually weaken InfoWars.

There is also some obvious hypocrisy here: Shadow banning is effectively the same as banning. Sites like InfoWars are allowed to use Facebook to post their nonsense, but Facebook hides the content so no one sees it unless they go to the page itself. That would be like telling someone they can say whatever they want on the street corner, if they step into this soundproof room. Facebook cannot credibly claim to be in favor of “free speech” while shadow banning users.

I gave up on trying to figure out Facebook’s news feed distribution a while ago. There is simply no way to be sure you are seeing the content you want to see, even with the “see first” option for certain friends and pages. I am not confident that I see all of the content I want to see when I look at specific friend lists. Even the “most recent” option of the news feed does not put posts in chronological order.

The solution is simple: Either ditch the algorithm that demotes certain posts or allow users to customize our news feed so we see the content we want to see. Why is this so hard?

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