Algorithms determine much of the user experience for people online. These algorithms are the best way for online organizations to provide personalized experiences for individuals, even when there is a large amount of content from which to choose. However, consumers often wonder why an algorithm decided to serve them a specific piece of material. Facebook has announced a new feature that will make it easier for people to see how the algorithm works and to tweak the results.

There is a growing concern about the content that people are being shown on social media. As the most popular platform in the world, Facebook has received a lot of criticism about the algorithm they use to determine a user's News Feed. To address these concerns, Facebook is adding a feature where users can see why their algorithm chose a particular post. 

As the company explained in a blog post about the change, "The goal of News Feed is to show people the posts that are most relevant to them. "Why am I seeing this post?", which can be found in the drop down menu in the right hand corner of a post, explains how your past interactions impact the ranking of posts in your News Feed."

The new feature will work in several ways. At its most basic level, you can use the feature to see the factors used to determine your News Feed. Much of the information won't be revolutionary. For example, most of the things shown in the News Feed are there because it's a "post is from a friend you made, a Group you joined or a Page you followed."

Facebook users who take advantage of the feature may learn more about their own habits. When the Facebook algorithm is deciding which posts from the things you follow to show, it relies on your past interactions to determine what you would like to see. The new "Why am I seeing this post?" feature, users will gain some insight on things like: how often they interact with posts from people, Pages or Groups; how often you interact with a specific type of post, for example, videos, photos or links; and how popular a post has been with the other people saw it.

Learning why a specific piece of content was chosen is only half of what the new feature can do. Facebook is giving people more control over what is shown in their News Feed through this new feature. Many of these controls already existed, such as privacy shortcuts, options for unfollowing a Facebook account of choosing to see content from that account first. There are also News Feed Preferences that can be used to personalize the News Feed for each user.

The "Why am I seeing this post?" is an expansion of the "Why am I see this ad?" tool that Facebook introduced in 2014. The ad version of the tool is also getting additional features. Besides being able to see "how factors like basic demographic details, interests and website visits contribute to the ads in your News Feed," users will also get details about the "ads you see when information on an advertiser's list matches your Facebook profile." This update will show consumers when they were shown an ad because a business included their information in a custom list that was uploaded to Facebook Ads.

For more recent news about social media marketing, read this article on Facebook's decision to remove targeting options from specific ads to prevent discrimination.