Facebook wants to nudge you into ‘meaningful’ online groups

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — At Facebook, mere “sharing” is getting old. Finding deeper meaning in online communities is the next big thing.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg is no longer satisfied with just connecting the world so that people can pass around baby pictures and live video — or fake news and hate symbols. So the Facebook founder wants to bring more meaning to its nearly 2 billion users by shepherding them into online groups that bring together people with common passions, problems and ambitions.

Much like the creation of Facebook itself — arguably the largest social-engineering project in history — that shift could have broad and unanticipated consequences. Facebook will apply the same powerful computer algorithms that make its service so compelling to the task of nudging people to consider groups they’ll find equally appealing.

If successful, that would also encourage people to spend more time on Facebook, which could boost the company’s profits. While Facebook doesn’t currently place ads in its groups, it said it “can’t speak to future plans.” Advertising is virtually Facebook’s only source of revenue ; it brought in almost $27 billion dollars in 2016, 57 percent more than the previous year.

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THE SEARCH FOR MEANING

The shift comes as Facebook continues to grapple with the darker side of connecting the world, from terrorist recruitment to videos of murder and suicides to propaganda intended to disrupt elections around the world. For Zuckerberg, using his social network to “build community” and “bring the world closer together” — two phrases from Facebook’s newly updated mission statement — is a big part of the answer.

“When you think of the social structure of the world, we are probably one of the larger institutions that can help empower people to build communities,” Zuckerberg said in a recent interview at the company’s…

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