The Algorithm Tweaks Won’t Save Us - by Charlie Warzel - Galaxy Brain:
Going through this history, I’m struck by how Facebook creates shitty outcomes for its users no matter how you tweak the algorithms. Pre-2018, the platform’s architecture incentivized the creation of some a lot of medium and low quality news and entertainment content, which performed like crazy on the platform. It sucked users in and kept them engaged in a passive way that made them feel worse after a Facebook session. Then, the company tried to incentivize an opposite platform experience in order to get people to engage with each other. It turned out that this was potentially worse and definitely more (politically) destabilizing. At the end of the day, Facebook found that two people screaming at each other and accusing the other of being part of a pedophilic cult or stealing an election is, well, a Meaningful Social Interaction. … What seems rather indisputable is that as currently designed (to optimize scale, engagement, profit) there is no way to tweak the platform in a way that doesn’t ultimately make people miserable or that destabilizes big areas of culture and society. The platform is simply too big. Leave it alone and it turns into a dangerous cesspool; play around with the knobs and risk inadvertently censoring or heaping world historic amounts of attention onto people or movements you never anticipated, creating yet more unanticipated outcomes. If there’s any shred of sympathy I have for the company, it’s that there don’t seem to be any great options.
I agree with nearly everything Warzel says, except the but at the end about his shred of sympathy for Facebook because “there don’t seem to be any great options.”
All of these options are fine for Facebook, because they all allow Facebook to keep making billions of dollars. I have zero sympathy for them; it’s all the rest of us I’m worried about.