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#PIZZAGATE Death by a Thousand Kittens (and Puppies)

I have a "Puppies and Kittens" theory about how Facebook, Twitter, etc. are suppressing PG stories.
I think they are using puppies and kittens (or whatever your interests are) to suppress the #Pizzagate story in a manner which (a) avoids claims that it suppressed speech, while (b) makes more money for Facebook.

To follow me, you need a basic understanding of how Facebook prioritizes the content of your news feed. TechCrunch has a nice summary on it here: https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/06/ultimate-guide-to-the-news-feed/
The formula from TechCrunch shows that News Feed Visibility is a product of the factors: Creator x Post x Type x Recency (and about 100,000 other high-personalized factors!). Simplified, that formula is:
  • News Feed Visibility = C x P x T x R

There are details to each factor, but “Type” is the factor we are concerned with in this theory: Regarding post Type, TechCrunch says “I might love reading news articles, you might love watching videos. Facebook matches people to post types so if you never watch videos, you won’t see as many.” It is about Relevance to the user.
However, this does not account for the paid-for advertisements that sometimes litter your FB feed. That is done through a keyword auction system. To give an example of how this works, let’s look at Amazon (which I believe is more transparent about how the auction market works).

On the Amazon side, a marketer’s ad is prioritized through an auction marketplace. When I want to sell something (e.g., a book), I can pay to have that book appear as a sponsored result based on keyword searches. I tell Amazon the maximum amount I am willing to pay to have a given keyword result in an impression of the ad for my book. Sometimes I might pay pennies – other times I might pay much more. Of course, I’m not the only bookseller on Amazon so on the back-end, they do a digital auction of the keyword bids (mine vs all the other booksellers).
Facebook, like Amazon, displays advertised content according to an auction https://www.facebook.com/business/help/430291176997542
The winner (the advertiser whose ad is shown) is determined by a product of the factors: *Advertiser Bid x Ad Quality & Relevance x Estimated Action Rates.

Facebook says it tries to balance (a) creating value for advertisers, and (b) providing positive, relevant experiences. In a perfect world, this helps both advertisers and users, because “advertisers are reaching people receptive to their ads and users are seeing something they're interested in.” This is the Relevance factor discussed above in the News Feed Visibility formula. Usually, this works out pretty well because I don't have to see all of my co-worker's loony left-wing posts!
However, as we are all aware, the world is far from perfect. The same mechanism could be used to suppress important speech about serious issues like #Pizzagate.

If FB detects that a #Pizzagate story is about to display on a user’s News Feed, all they have to do is tweak the Relevance factor. Suppose you like puppies and kittens. Facebook knows it – and it knows that you like a dozen or so pages that regularly show cute animal content. More often than not, those pages are paying for advertisements by “boosting” some of their most popular posts. If FB does not want you to see the PG story, it needs only to boost Relevance of other content it knows you like: puppies and kittens.

Suddenly, a dozen stories, pictures, videos and other links to puppies and kittens are prioritized in your feed above the #Pizzagate story. You’re happy – because you got to read about something you enjoy. The advertisers are happy, because their pages got results (likes / shares / etc.). And, by the time you’ve clicked one or two of them, the #Pizzagate story is buried so deep in your feed you’ll never see it.

Anyway, it’s just a theory. But it does make sense for two reasons:
  1. FB can control the message without deleting user posts, and thus avoids claims that it suppressed speech.
  2. FB can use the #Pizzagate story to make more money because your #Pizzagate  post triggers the sale of a dozen ads.

It’s pretty damned evil to use puppies and kittens to aide, abet, give comfort to, and perpetuate the horrors of child sex trafficking and abuse.

Follow me on Twitter @PReynoldsEsq

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