Facebook filtering and selective display: you never know what’s missing

Ok, I admit that I have a couple of different Facebook accounts. There is my real account where I have both personal and business acquaintances, with my pages, etc. Then I have a couple accounts that are designed for specific purposes. One is only meant to be my backdoor in case I lose the password to my main account. The other is so I can comment on political posts without exposing my friends or family to retribution from the internet zealots who think it’s funny to try and dox everyone who disagrees with them.

Some time ago, I started noticing that people would accuse me of not answering them or denying that I’d posted something I could see right there in my feed. At first I thought these people were intentionally stupid and playing some kind of game. Then I started comparing what each account sees. Let me tell you… there is something weird going on.

When I looked at the same conversation string on a public page using two different accounts, the comments that showed up were very different. This is despite the “Most Relevant” filter being in place for both of them. I tried switching both to “New” or “All Comments,” but that didn’t really help, either. The really confusing part is that what does show up is not consistent between the two accounts; some comments would appear on both accounts of course, but lots would only show up on one or the other.

WTF?

I’ve done some digging, but not many people are talking about this at all. It’s most likely that people just don’t notice. After all, if you simply can’t see a comment, what would prompt you to go looking for it? Once in a while, you might see a small hint when someone refers to another person by name, but that name doesn’t appear in the comment string. When I first noticed that, I just presumed that person had deleted their comments, but nobody seemed to call them on it. Then I thought maybe that person had blocked me, or something else. Nope.

Since I can’t find any real discussions on how the filters operate, I’m left with guessing. The common things I am starting to see after several weeks of making notes are that the “Most Relevant” filter is extremely aggressive, and uses a mix of your profile data with some per-comment stats to cull lots of things. Here’s what I suspect gets tossed based on a couple of weeks of observation:

  • Long posts – more than 50 words or so
  • Links to sites other than entertainment media
  • Certain words or phrases, but not necessarily slurs or personal insult
  • Posts that several people hide or try to report
  • Posts from people that have been hidden or blocked by several people
  • Comments from people who don’t gather ‘likes’ from other regulars

The last three points are really interesting, because you could make the case that a ranking system should rely on public perception. In reality, those crowd-sourced ranks are almost always abused and gamed by zealots, whether they know it or not. This is especially notable on politically oriented Facebook pages, where it’s long been known that people will report opposing views as being abusive or threatening even when that’s not true. And page admins are free to remove any posts or comments they like without any obligation to disclose or be fair. That’s just the way it is – their turf, their arbitrary rules.

My big concern is when the same posts are not available to everyone in general. It appears to be intentional, but I can’t prove that in any way. What I’ve seen when comparing comment strings from Everytown is that almost no conservative or pro-gun comments make it to the public view unless someone reacts negatively to it. Worse, even when you choose “All” comments, you don’t ever get all the comments. Most of the opposing views are still left out, with absolutely no indication that they exist at all.

**edited to add**

I’m going to start getting screen shots from various accounts to compare what shows up. I am seeing this more and more, to the point that I really have to wonder if actual people are pulling strings now and then. The content does not seem to be the issue unless it’s sprinkled through to give one political side a black eye by only letting through the base, aggressive, or stupid remarks and hiding the ones with actual information.

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