If a website gets a large portion of its traffic from Facebook, but gets a small amount from outside of Facebook, then the click-gap signal will now cause Facebook to penalize that website, so as “to limit the spread of ‘problematic’ content.” So the New York Times, NBC News, Buzzfeed, etc. will reap the rewards, but small individual websites like mine and those of my colleagues will be penalized even further than we are now. This is an obvious attempt to influence the 2020 elections and ensure that 2016, when people found alternatives to enemedia propaganda online, doesn’t happen again.
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Facebook recently announced that it will introduce the “click-gap signal” into its newsfeed algorithm. According to Facebook, the click-gap signal will help protect its users from low-quality content.
But the new change may actually create a bigger problem for Americans who value the open marketplace of ideas the social media platform once provided.
While the change may cut down on what Facebook deems low-quality content, the more significant outcome will likely be to give the establishment media another step up in Facebook’s newsfeed.
If you are wondering what a click-gap is, then join the crowd. Facebook invented the term, so we are all trying to catch up. Put simply, Facebook is trying to demote domains in its news feed that are getting disproportionately more clicks from inside Facebook than outside of it.
For example, if a website gets a large portion of its pageview traffic from Facebook, but get a small amount from outside of Facebook, then the click-gap signal will now cause Facebook to penalize that website.
Facebook’s news feed algorithm sorts, promotes and demotes posts from users based on certain signals. There are numerous signals — some that we know about and some that we don’t. The click-gap is simply an additional signal that will now factor into the automated sorting that occurs before Facebook users see any posts in their feed.
Facebook explained it this way:
This new signal, Click-Gap, relies on the web graph, a conceptual “map” of the internet in which domains with a lot of inbound and outbound links are at the center of the graph and domains with fewer inbound and outbound links are at the edges. Click-Gap looks for domains with a disproportionate number of outbound Facebook clicks compared to their place in the web graph. This can be a sign that the domain is succeeding on News Feed in a way that doesn’t reflect the authority they’ve built outside it and is producing low-quality content.
Facebook’s stated purpose for forcing the click-gap signal on its users is that it will cut down on low-quality content. And it certainly may do that.
But the click-gap signal will cause far more serious problems than it solves.
The click-gap signal is anti-free speech. One of the advantages of a platform like Facebook is that it provides a fertile ground for diverse voices to be heard. It is easier to post a link to Facebook than to be published in the Op-Ed section of The New York Times. Despite what it looks like, not just anyone can get an interview with CNN. Facebook gives — or rather gave — younger, smaller, less established voices a place where they could be heard.
Not so anymore. Or at least not with any hope of success. Facebook is telling websites that unless they already have a big audience outside of Facebook, they shouldn’t come to Facebook looking for help….
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