Facebook overhauls news feed to focus on what friends and family share

The goal of the overhaul is something that may be difficult to achieve: Facebook wants people to feel positive, rather than negative, after visiting.

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook introduced sweeping changes to the kinds of posts, videos and photos that its more than 2 billion members will see most, saying on Thursday that it will prioritize what their friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands.

The shift is the most significant overhaul in years to Facebook’s News Feed, the cascading screen of content that people typically see when they log into the social network. Over the next few weeks, users will begin seeing fewer viral videos and news articles posted by media companies. Instead, Facebook will highlight posts between friends — for example, a photo of your dog, or a status update that many of your friends have commented on or liked.

The changes are intended to maximize the amount of content with “meaningful interaction” that people consume on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview. Facebook, he said, had closely studied what kinds of posts had stressed or harmed users. The social network wants to reduce what Zuckerberg called “passive content” — videos and articles that ask little more of the viewer than to sit back and watch or read — so that users’ time on the site was well spent.

“We want to make sure that our products are not just fun but are good for people,” Zuckerberg said. “We need to refocus the system.”

Thursday’s changes raise questions of whether people may end up seeing more content that reinforces their own ideologies if they end up frequently interacting with posts and videos that reflect the similar views of their friends or family. And bogus news may still spread. If a relative or friend posts a link with an inaccurate news article that is widely commented on, that post will still be prominently displayed.

The goal of the overhaul, ultimately, is for something less quantifiable that may be difficult to achieve: Facebook wants people to feel positive, rather than negative, after visiting.

“When people are engaging with people they’re close to, it’s more meaningful, more fulfilling,” said David Ginsberg, director of research at Facebook. “It’s good for your well-being.”

Facebook has been under fire for months over what it shows people and whether its site has…

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