If you’ve clicked onto Facebook in the past week its almost impossible for you not to have seen someone doing the ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’. But if you’re more of a Twitter kind of person, your feed will probably show a vastly different picture of the world, instead filled with distressing updates from Ferguson, Missouri. Facebook’s notoriously algorithm-heavy content appears to have resulted in almost complete censorship, with readers deprived of both exposure to global issues and the freedom to express their views on them.
I’ve posted non stop about Ferguson on Facebook and I know others have been posting and yet… The Algorithm silences it. Time for it to go.— Winston the III (@suchwinston) August 18, 2014
However, the fact that Facebook doesn’t fully dispense all its data to the public means that comparing its posts to tweets surrounding specific topics is difficult… but not impossible. According to SimpleReach, a clear increase was found in the amount of posts (3.6 million) regarding Ferguson in eight days on Twitter, than there were on Facebook in ten. On top of that, the amount of unique U.S visitors that Twitter had in July (121 million) is almost half of Facebook’s 203 million: emphasising an even bigger gulf in Ferguson-related activity.
Ferguson has turned into a tale of two internets, and the stark contrast between the opposing realities relayed on Facebook and Twitter only further drills in the harrowing reminder that social media almost completely determines our news consumption. It seems that now even the words from the people themselves are being censored.
Interesting that while #Ferguson is all over my twitter feed, Facebook is full of videos of people dumping cold water on their heads.— Tyler Holbrook (@TTHolbrook) August 18, 2014
While the term “National Guard” trended on Twitter for several hours as real-time updates poured in from people on the ground of the disruption as well as on the other side of the globe, Facebook remained shielded from the distressing truths of the real world. But why? “Facebook is a place for friends and family and fun” says Matt Heindl, senior director of social media marketing at Razorfish, “people want it to be their happy place”, so sparking concern over the militarization of the police and racial issues seems out of place next to someone’s holiday photos. And it is exactly this rose-tint editing that guides us unconsciously into the Orwellian world, as well as damaging Facebook’s recent public efforts to become a better source of “high quality content” like news and current issues. And how can you eliminate the dichotomy between those that support Michael Brown and those that stand by the police, when the information itself is relayed with such contradiction.
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