Under-fire Facebook says users to get more control over content they see

Social media platform to enable greater regulation of what appears on an individual’s newsfeed

In this file photo from August 11, 2019, an iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
In this file photo from August 11, 2019, an iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

Facebook will enable users to exert some control over what they see in their news feed, the social media platform announced.

“People can now increase or reduce the amount of content they see from the friends, family, Groups and Pages they’re connected to and the topics they care about in their News Feed Preferences,” Facebook parent company Meta said in a statement Thursday.

The new features will first be available only to a limited number of users around the world and will gradually be expanded.

“This is part of our ongoing work to give people more control over News Feed, so they see more of what they want and less of what they don’t,” Meta said.

The social media giant has faced multiple crises in recent years. A recent trove of documents obtained by media organizations, and first described by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen, have revealed how Facebook ignored or downplayed internal warnings of the negative and often harmful consequences its social network algorithms created or magnified across the world.

Haugen told US lawmakers in October that the social media giant fuels division, harms children and urgently needs to be regulated, drawing pledges Congress would take up long-delayed action.

Haugen testified to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. She accused the company of being aware of apparent harm to some teens from Instagram and being dishonest in its public fight against hate and misinformation.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen leaves after giving evidence to the joint committee for the Draft Online Safety Bill, as part of British government plans for social media regulation, at the Houses of Parliament, in London, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Haugen came forward with a wide-ranging condemnation of Facebook, buttressed with tens of thousands of pages of internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving her job in the company’s civic integrity unit. She also filed complaints with federal authorities alleging that Facebook’s own research shows that it amplifies hate, misinformation and political unrest, but the company hides what it knows.

Haugen said that she was speaking out because of her belief that “Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.”

“The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people,” she said in her written testimony prepared for the hearing. “Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”

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