Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to change the way Facebook operates people’s news feeds has cost him $3.3bn, with his personal net worth dropping by 4.4 per cent, it is believed.
After Facebook went public with the news feed change on Thursday, the website’s share value dropped by nearly four per cent before US markets opened on Friday.
By close of business on Friday Facebook shares were trading at $179.37, down more than 4.4 per cent on Thursday’s price of $187.77.
And Forbes has calculated that for Mr Zuckerberg, the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook, this translated into a personal hit of 3.3bn – a 4.4 per cent fall in his personal fortune.
Mr Zuckerberg, 33, who started Facebook in 2004 aged 19, still owns a 17 per stake in the company, which went public in 2012.
He explained his reasons for changing the news feed algorithm in a Facebook post on Thursday, saying he wanted the website to prioritise posts from friends and family over businesses and brands.
“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us,” he said. “But recently we’ve gotten feedback that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.
“Based on this … . I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
Some, however, have suggested that the change might also have been influenced by Facebook’s alleged desire to counteract what the company is believed to refer to as “context collapse”.
This is the phenomenon where people stop sharing as much information about their personal lives on Facebook, yielding less useful data for the advertisers on whom Facebook relies to make its money.
Tweaking the news feed to encourage people to talk about their personal lives might, therefore, be seen as a means of increasing Facebook’s commercial value.
The markets, though, appear to have reacted badly to the news feed change, at least in the short term.
Some analysts, however, think the tweak will work well for the company in the long term.
Mark Mahaney, an analyst at RBC, told Bloomberg: “Making the feed more relevant should boost user and engagement growth over time.
“We believe these changes will be beneficial to Facebook in the medium and long term.”
Just how much Mr Zuckerberg will worry about the short term drop in his wealth is also unclear.
Given that Facebook shares were trading at around $127 in January 2017, the company’s value is still up by more than 40 per cent year-on-year, even after this week’s fall.
Despite losing $3.3bn, Mr Zuckerberg is still worth $72.4bn (£52.7bn) – and, anyway, it’s not as if he intends to hold on to his Facebook shares.
In December 2015 Mr Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan said they were planning to give away 99 per cent of their Facebook shares over the course of their lives. (The Independent)
Facebook is to change how its news feed works, making posts from businesses, brands and media less prominent.
Instead, content that sparks conversations among family and friends who use the site will be emphasised, explained chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on his page.
Organisations on Facebook may see the popularity of their posts decrease as a result, the firm acknowledged.
The changes will take effect over the coming weeks.
“We’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,” wrote Mr Zuckerberg.
He said that he and his team felt a responsibility to make sure Facebook was good for people’s wellbeing.
If public content is to be promoted, it will now have to be seen to encourage community interaction – as happens within the tight-knit groups that discuss TV programmes and sports, he said.
Another example given by Facebook in a separate post was live video feeds, which tend to generate much discussion.
“By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down,” added Mr Zuckerberg.
“But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”
In a previous post, Mr Zuckerberg had vowed to “fix” Facebook in 2018, saying he wanted to ensure that users were protected from abuse and that time spent on the site would be time well spent.
He also pledged to defend Facebook from nation states.
Analysis has recently suggested that some actors, including Russia, have tried to manipulate content on the social network.
“It’s definitely a significant change,” said Laura Hazard Owen at Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab.
“It’s going to affect publishers a lot, we’re going to be seeing a lot less news organically pop up in our news feeds.”
Ms Owen added, however, that Facebook had not been very clear about what sort of discussions the site’s revamped algorithms would prioritise.
It might end up being “the most controversial stuff” that generates heated conversations, she suggested, or simply content pulled in from group pages where users engage with others on specific topics.
Given recent public scrutiny, the social network was currently “in the hot seat”, said Gabriel Kahn from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
“Facebook is in the midst of all of these fires it’s trying to put out, it’s trying to reassert its warm and fuzzy brand value that it has always tried to put forth,” he told the BBC.
Mr Kahn added the update from Mr Zuckerberg was a “clear admission” that Facebook wielded significant power over the health of society.
However, he argued that the new priorities could further distort views and the nature of conversations.
“There should be public debate about the values they’re applying to that algorithm,” he said. (The Sun)
A man in the West Bank was arrested by Israeli police after he wrote “good morning” in Arabic on Facebook and then software mistranslated his words as “attack them”.
Palestinian builder Halawim Halawi had posted the words with a photo of himself in the Israeli settlement of Beitar Ilit where he works.
Facebook’s automatic translation software interpreted the post to mean “attack them” in Hebrew and “hurt them” in English, according to Haaretz.
Israeli police were then informed of the message and they became suspicious because he was standing next to a bulldozer.
Such vehicles have been used in terror attacks and officers thought he may be threatening to carry out such an atrocity, the website reported.
Mr Halawi was arrested and then questioned on suspicion of incitement.
Fortunately, police realised they had made a mistake and released him a few hours later.
It was unclear how such a translation error could have been made as there are no apparent similarities between the Arabic expression used for “good morning” and the phrases in Hebrew or English.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri told the AFP news agency that “a few days ago, a Palestinian was detained for questioning on suspicion of incitement through his Facebook page”.
She said he was “immediately released” after the suspicions turned out to be false.
Haaretz reported that the Facebook post has since been deleted. (Sky News)