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The Facebook Political Algorithm

By Josie Barton

Facebook has become a large contributor to political polarization, the spread of fake news, and the outcome of elections. The algorithm of the app manipulates people by the content it regulates and spreads across users.

Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Professor Richins, explains that the likability of Facebook and many other social media apps is that it is free to download. Users do not realize that the app utilizes user’s personal data to optimize advertisements and improve recommendations.

According to Pew Research, 74% of Facebook users did not know that the platform lists their interests for advertisements.

Richins vocalized that the app contains artificial intelligence bots to retrieve data from user’s personal information. The app then uses the information for advertisement profit.

Professor of Political Science, Professor Herrin, explains that there is an eco-chamber effect reinforced by communication and reputation inside the app. The eco-chamber groups certain individuals together to influence and manipulate.

According to Pew Research, 51% of Facebook users were given a political label by the app’s eco-chamber effect.

The algorithm creates political polarization between individuals. Herrin mentions that there are bots on the app that create content traffic. The bots target users that are most susceptible to content manipulation.

The algorithm exposes users to content that makes them angry or offended. Users will then interact with that post or comment and engage in conversation. The algorithm recognizes this interaction and exposes users to more of that content.

The Facebook app has an older demographic than other social media apps such as Instagram or Twitter. Political campaigns use the app to advocate for their operation. According to Pew Research, Trump’s team spent $44 million on Facebook in the 2016 campaign.

An algorithm is embedded in all free social media platforms. This algorithm regulates content and profits off user’s anger. The likability of the apps is the ability to voice free speech, but it is up to users to decide how much personal information they distribute.

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