Image: GERARD JULIEN / Contributor via Getty Images
Yesterday Facebook reported its revenue for the quarter fell 1 percent from a year earlier to $28.8 billion—the first revenue decline for the company—and slight misses on its expected daily and monthly active users, along with average revenue per user. It’s a relatively terrible report for Facebook which only confirms many of the problems we know it’s been dealing with for a bit: TikTok is surging, Apple’s new privacy settings are making it harder for Facebook to deliver ads on iPhone, and the Kardashians hate everything Instagram is doing.
Mark Zuckerberg’s solution to all of this? Making Facebook even worse by doubling the amount of content you didn’t ask to see in your feed. "One of the main transformations in our business right now is that social feeds are going from being driven primarily by the people and accounts you follow to increasingly also being driven by AI recommending content that you'll find interesting from across Facebook or Instagram, even if you don't follow those creators," Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “Right now, about 15 percent of content in a person’s Facebook feed and a little more than that of their Instagram feed is recommended by our AI from people, groups, or accounts that you don’t follow. We expect these numbers to more than double by the end of next year.”This, of course, goes against much of what Facebook has said since it’s been blamed for spreading disinformation, allowing white nationalism, and helping Donald Trump ascend to the presidency. Back in 2018, Zuckerberg’s soul-searching led him to prioritize posts from friends and family members in the News Feed as opposed to posts from publishers and brands. A 1 percent decline in revenue, however, seemingly shows that none of that matters if it hurts the company’s bottom line. The decision to force unfollowed content onto users’ feeds isn't the only unwelcome move; the lion’s share are in fact a consequence of Facebook and Instagram trying to emulate other social media platforms. Take the most recent iteration of Instagram’s pivot to video, meant to ward off the threat of competitors like TikTok and Snapchat by doubling down on video content, features, and a design interface reminiscent of their operations. Still, the moves have been widely unpopular as have the attempts by the company to defend them. Earlier this week, Instagram head Adam Mosseri was rolled out to share a video on Instagram defending the wave of unpopular changes by Facebook to its social media platforms."Now, if you're seeing things in your Feed that are recommendations that you're not interested in, that means that we're doing a bad job ranking, and we need to improve," said Mosseri. "But we're going to continue to try and get better at recommendations because we think it's one of the most effective and important ways to help creators reach more people."This isn’t the first time Mosseri was rolled out to defend the latest pivot to video, nor will it be the last. Following the video and negative backlash to it on Twitter, Mosseri tried and defend pushing unfollowed and video content onto users, again. “One thing I hear a lot is people asking to see more friend content in Feed,” Mosseri tweeted. “I'd love for there to be more friend content in Feed, but all the growth in photos and videos from friends has been in stories and in DMs.”Facebook, easily one of the most powerful and influential monopolies in the world, has the resources and talent to imagine new and exciting ways for social media to operate—or to preserve existing ones that users enjoy and prioritize. Instead, the company has doubled down on trying to shape user behavior into more profitable patterns and drive them towards more profitable mediums. The push to video content, like Facebook’s foray into the metaverse, is not about expression or social networks but about what Facebook has always prioritized: profits.