Facebook has updated its algorithm which will place more importance to posts from friends and family rather than from content publishers. This means that posts from some Pages will get lesser referral traffic which could affect distribution for many media companies… badly.

Analytics and content optimization company Parse.ly says that Facebook now accounts for 39% of referral traffic and even pulled ahead of Google from its network of nearly 400 digital publishers. Factordaily had pointed that Indian news sites had lost 100 million page views last month due to tweaks made to Facebook’s algorithm.

This move has more ramifications from just a decline in the number of pageviews to website. Facebook’s echo chamber is only going to get louder and divergent points of views will not get as much attention on the News feed. Facebook says that Pages should “post things that their audience are likely to share with their friends” else lose traffic coming to their website.

For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts. We encourage Pages to post things that their audience are likely to share with their friends.

Publishers will probably have to pay Facebook to make sure that their stories come on News Feeds unless friends and family link to it, as indicated by this Wired report. This is likely to reinforce biases as most friends and family would have similar values and beliefs as the user and share content that is relevant to them. That means that we would not get differing points of view on political or social issues.

Gizmodo report Trending Topics

A Gizmodo report earlier this year alleged that Facebook employees suppressed conservative news in the US in its Trending Topics panel.  The Guardian published leaked documents from Facebook, citing the Trending Topics guidelines. The guidelines don’t say anything about suppressing any kind of content, but indeed followed any typical newsroom’s approach which has in house styles and editorial guidelines.

Following which, Facebook announced that it made changes to the Trending Topics algorithm and would not supplement it with lists of external websites and news outlets to assess the importance of particular topics.  Facebook said that its internal investigation did not reveal evidence of systematic political bias. But the company said that it is increasing oversight on the review team which includes a better escalation procedure. It also provided updated guidelines for what can be included in trending topics and reviewers underwent a refresher course  that emphasized that content decisions may not be made on the basis of politics or ideology.