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Facebook’s News Feed is starting to explain itself

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‘Why am I seeing this post?’

Image: Facebook

Facebook has announced a new feature called “Why am I seeing this post?” which allows you to see information about why a specific post has appeared on your News Feed from within the Facebook app. The new option was announced on Sunday and is an expansion of an existing feature Facebook already provides for ads. As well as seeing why a post has appeared, it will also give you control over how often you see posts like it in the future.

You can access the new option by using the drop-down menu in the top right of the post. Once opened, you’ll be shown Facebook’s logic for why it thought you might want to see a post. This could include the amount of times you’ve interacted with the post’s author in the past, the types of posts you tend to interact with (such as photos or videos), and the overall popularity of the post itself.

As well as explaining why your News Feed is showing you a certain post, the new feature will also give you shortcuts to tools that control whether you see posts like it again in the future. These include See First and Unfollow options, as well as linking to your News Feed Preferences.

The ‘Why am I seeing this ad?’ feature will now show when your email address has been matched against a mailing list.
Image: Facebook

The service’s existing “Why am I seeing this ad?” feature is also being updated as part of the changes. Facebook already gives you basic information about how its ads have been targeted towards you by, for example, telling you that an advertiser has chosen to target individuals of your age and gender. Now you’ll see additional details such as whether the advertiser has uploaded a mailing list with your email address in it.

We’ve long argued that Facebook’s News Feed needs to start explaining itself if the service is ever to regain the trust of its users, and these new options are an important step in that direction. However, it doesn’t fix the more fundamental problems with the service such as the the “filter bubble,” the idea that personalization tools from companies like Facebook and Google have isolated us from opposing viewpoints — it only explains how it’s created.

The changes are rolling out starting this week, and are expected to be available to all users by the middle of May.