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<nettime> Valleywag > Traven > Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Act
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<nettime> Valleywag > Traven > Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists


< http://valleywag.gawker.com/facebook-is-throttling-nonprofits-and-activists-1569877170 >    
Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists

   B. Traven
   4/30/14 1:35pm

   Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists

   So far coverage of Facebook's plan to squeeze the organic reach of
   Pages has focused on its impact on "brands" that spam us with ads and
   promotions. But nonprofits, activists, and advocacy groups with much
   fewer resources (and no ad budgets) are also being hugely affected.
   It's starting to look like Facebook is willing to strangle public
   discourse on the platform in an attempt to wring out a few extra
   dollars for its new shareholders.

   Put simply, "organic reach" is the number of people who potentially
   could see any given Facebook post in their newsfeed. Long gone are the
   days when Facebook would simply show you everything that happened in
   your network in strict chronological order. Instead, algorithms filter
   the flood of updates, posts, photos, and stories down to the few that
   they calculate you would be most interested in. (Many people would
   agree that these algorithms are not very good, which is why Facebook is
   putting so much effort into refining them.) This means that even if I
   have, say, 400 friends, only a dozen or so might actually see any given
   thing I post.

   One way to measure your reach, then, is as the percentage of your total
   followers who (potentially) see each of your posts. This is the ratio
   that Facebook has more-or-less publicly admitted it is ramping down
   to a target range of 1-2% for Pages. In other words, even if an
   organization's Page has 10,000 followers, any given item they post
   might only reach 100-200 of them. In the case of my organization, that
   ratio is already down from an average of nearly 20% in 2012 to less
   than 5% today--a 75% reduction.

   Another way of looking at it is in terms of what our reach would have
   been if Facebook hadn't shifted the goalposts. From February to October
   2012 our posts reached about 18% of our followers, on average [see
   graph above]. If that percentage had stayed the same as our followers
   grew over the past two years, then each item we posted today would
   theoretically reach about 1,000 people.

   Lots of people have no problem with making Mountain Dew or Sony pay for
   what was previously free advertising--never mind that Facebook had
   already encourage them to pay for more likes with the promise that they
   would be able to broadcast to those followers for free. Nobody needs to
   shed a tear for the poor souls at Proctor & Gamble who have been forced
   to rejigger some small piece of their multibillion dollar advertising
   budget.

   But Facebook has also become a new kind of platform for political
   and social advocacy. We may scoff at overblown "saving the world"
   rhetoric when it comes from Silicon Valley execs, but in places like
   Pakistan (not to mention in Tahrir Square or the Maidan) the idea of
   social media as an open marketplace of social and political ideas is
   taken quite seriously. That all goes away if nobody can even see your
   posts.

   In the more prosaic world of nonprofits, Facebook has also become a
   crucial outreach tool and an effective way to stay in touch with
   supporters and partners. Many organizations funded by government or
   foundation grants are not even legally allowed to spend that money on
   advertising--and many more simply don't have the budget for it
   regardless.

   Facebook urgently needs to address the impact that its algorithm
   changes are having on nonprofits, NGOs, civil society, and political
   activists--especially those in developing countries, who are never
   going to be able to "pay to play" and for whom Facebook is one of the
   few really effective ways to get a message out to a wide audience
   without government control or censorship.

   Improving the quality of posts on Facebook is a laudable goal, but it
   must be done in a transparent manner. For all the gripes people have
   about Google and their search algorithm, they are very clear about what
   they consider "quality" content and even provide free tools to help
   ensure pages have what their robots like to see. An algorithm change
   that results in a huge swath of legitimate, non-spam users losing 75%
   of their reach should not be deployed in secret.

   In the meantime, there are still some social networks that don't
   presume to know what you want to see in your timeline and will blast
   every one of your messages to every one of your followers. At least for
   now. Twitter just went public last November and will need to show a
   profit someday.


   B. Traven is a pseudonym. He runs social media for a mid-sized
   international NGO in Washington, D.C.
   

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