Are new Facebook ‘fixes’ meaningful?


Associated Press

NEW YORK

To Mark Zuckerberg, fixing Facebook means many things – protecting users from abuse, preventing elections meddling from malicious actors, weeding out fake news and “making sure time spent on Facebook is well spent.”

To critics, it’s all that and then some. But many of the steps Facebook has taken so far strike them as insufficient, and in some cases aimed as much at keeping people glued to the service down the line as at really addressing Facebook’s underlying problems.

Zuckerberg, who publicly sets himself a “personal challenge” every year, is this year focused on “fixing Facebook.”

But fixing Facebook, critics say, should also involve making it less addictive and its business model less dependent on as many people logging in as often and for as long as possible. And it’s definitely not about creating new products for younger kids who can’t use its flagship platform, particularly amid all the worries about Facebook’s effects on the health of adults and teens.

The company has already announced a slew of new “fixes.” It’s just far from clear if these tweaks will produce lasting change, or if they’re merely cosmetic adjustments designed to generate goodwill while also keeping Facebook’s business strong. Earlier this month, for instance, Facebook said that it would show users more posts from friends and family that it deems “meaningful,” while de-emphasizing posts from publishers and businesses.

The move did not affect paid advertising on the site, and it follows Zuckerberg’s declaration last year that Facebook would focus on helping users find “meaningful” online groups.

Though Facebook enjoyed strong revenue, profit and all-time stock highs in 2017, there are signs that users – for whatever reason – may be pulling back from the service. According to comScore, Facebook visitors spent an average of 910 minutes on the platform in December 2017. That’s down from 974 minutes in December 2016 and from 1,050 minutes in the same month in 2015.

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