BITlab: Behavior Information Technology

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Communication Arts & Sciences
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824

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Explaining the News Feed Algorithm: An Analysis of the News Feed FYI Blog

by: Kelley Cotter, Janghee Cho, and Emilee Rader


Facebook uses algorithmic curation—automated selection and ranking of content—to present a personalized News Feed to each user for consumption. However, the News Feed user interface provides little information to help users understand how the ranking algorithm works. We analyzed the company’s “News Feed FYI” blog series to better understand the degree to which Facebook employs “how” and “why” explanations of its News Feed algorithm. These types of explanations have been used in other recommendation and intelligent systems as a means of promoting user un- derstanding and acceptance. Our findings show that the “News Feed FYI” blog posts focus more on explanations that justify why the algorithm works the way it does, and less on explanations that describe how the system works. These findings suggest that the “News Feed FYI” series would be more helpful for increasing users’ confidence in the system, but not improving their trust in the system.


Kelley Cotter, Janghee Cho, and Emilee Rader. “Explaining the News Feed Algorithm: An Analysis of the News Feed FYI Blog.” Poster in CHI 2017 Extended Abstracts. Denver, CO.
May 2017.

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