Home Algorithmic Influence Exposed: How Meta Utilizes AI to Shape Content on Facebook and Instagram

Algorithmic Influence Exposed: How Meta Utilizes AI to Shape Content on Facebook and Instagram

In the ever-evolving world of social media, algorithms play a crucial role in determining what content we see and interact with. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has recently taken a step towards transparency by shedding light on the inner workings of its AI-powered algorithms. In this article, we will delve into how Meta uses artificial intelligence (AI) to shape the content on its platforms, providing you with a better understanding of the process and empowering you to have more control over the content you consume.

Meta’s commitment to openness, transparency, and accountability is the driving force behind its decision to demystify its social media algorithms. Nick Clegg, Meta’s President of Global Affairs, emphasizes the importance of addressing concerns about powerful technologies like AI through openness. In a recent blog post, Clegg states, “With rapid advances taking place with powerful technologies like generative AI, it’s understandable that people are both excited by the possibilities and concerned about the risks. We believe that the best way to respond to those concerns is with openness.”

Meta has introduced “service cards” that provide valuable insights into how content is ranked and recommended on Facebook and Instagram. These cards offer a comprehensive overview of the AI systems behind various features, including the Feed, Stories, Reels, and other content discovery mechanisms. By examining these cards, users can gain a deeper understanding of the algorithms’ inner workings and make informed decisions about the content they encounter.

One of the prominent system cards focuses on Instagram Explore, a feature that showcases users photo and reels content from accounts they don’t follow. The card outlines a three-step process that powers the automated AI recommendation engine:

  1. Gather Inventory: The system collects public Instagram content, such as photos and reels, that adhere to Meta’s quality and integrity rules.
  2. Leverage Signals: The AI system analyzes how users engage with similar content or interests, using these “input signals” to inform the recommendation process.
  3. Rank Content: Based on the previous steps, the AI system ranks the content, prioritizing items that are predicted to be of greater interest to the user and placing them higher in the Explore tab.

Users have the ability to influence this process by saving content they enjoy, indicating to the system that they would like to see similar content in the future. Conversely, marking content as “not interested” helps the system filter out similar content from the user’s recommendations. For those who prefer to explore content that hasn’t been personalized by the algorithm, selecting “Not personalized” in the Explore filter allows them to view reels and photos that are not specifically tailored to their preferences.

Meta aims to empower users by providing them with tools and features that allow them to better understand and control the content they encounter on Facebook and Instagram. The “Why Am I Seeing This?” feature, which has been available for some time, is being expanded to cover Facebook Reels, Instagram Reels, and Instagram’s Explore tab. This feature enables users to click on individual reels and gain insights into how their previous activity may have influenced the algorithm to display that particular piece of content.

Additionally, Instagram is testing a new feature that allows users to mark recommended reels as “Interested,” indicating their desire to see more similar content in the future. This feature complements the existing option to mark content as “Not Interested,” which has been available since 2021. These features put users in the driver’s seat, granting them the ability to shape their content recommendations based on their preferences and interests.

Meta is also taking steps to facilitate research and provide access to public data from Instagram and Facebook. In the coming weeks, Meta plans to roll out its Content Library and API, a suite of tools designed for researchers. This comprehensive resource will allow researchers to search, explore, and filter public content, enabling them to gain valuable insights into the platforms. To ensure privacy and compliance, researchers will be required to apply for access through approved partners, starting with the University of Michigan’s Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. Meta’s Content Library and API will provide unparalleled access to publicly-available content, furthering the company’s commitment to data-sharing and transparency.

Meta’s decision to provide detailed explanations of its AI algorithms stems from both its commitment to transparency and external factors such as regulatory scrutiny. The explosive growth of AI technology has drawn attention from regulators worldwide, who are concerned about the collection, management, and utilization of personal data by these systems. While Meta’s algorithms are not new, the company’s past mismanagement of user data during the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the public’s demand for greater transparency in platforms like TikTok have underscored the need for increased communication and openness.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Deanna Ritchie
Former Editor

Deanna was an editor at ReadWrite until early 2024. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind, Editor in Chief for Calendar, editor at Entrepreneur media, and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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