I was wondering why Vox Political isn’t getting the hits it should be.
There’s no difference in the quality of the articles, and I was posting them to the same places on the social media, so I couldn’t see a fault at this end.
I noticed that the number of shares on Facebook had plummeted, though, and thought this might be the reason for the fall. Viral popularity is a huge part of social media success. So I decided to ask readers of the Vox Political Facebook group why they weren’t bothering.
“I’m seeing weird behaviour on the statistics for this page,” I wrote. “Post after post shows hundreds of people reached, dozens or hundreds of ‘engagements’… and single-figure shares.
“Why aren’t you sharing my posts, folks?”
The results were interesting.
It turns out that some people aren’t sharing as much as before: “I … don’t share a lot. I like reading but i I don’t share political posts now.”
This turned out to be quite common. Why? “I follow on twitter and share there but try not to share too much on facebook or I get people moaning.”
“I think people are wary of sharing too many political posts and pissing their friends off.”
“It’s just unfortunate that if you get too political on Facebook, people will either unfollow or unfriend.”
Some appear to have a problem with a glitch: “As i start reading, my news feed resets, and i have to hunt to find the post i started to read.” Funny how that glitch seems to happen to people reading posts from left-wing pages though.
One person pointed out: “I’m also noticing many posts are not appearing until several days after posting.”
But here’s the comment that struck me as being most telling: “When I saw this it made me realise I hadn’t seen your posts for a while.”
I had not been posting much to the page apart from links to articles, and this reader had not been seeing them. When I posted something that wasn’t a link, suddenly they could read it again.
I was left asking, is Facebook deliberately censoring article links to left-wing sites?
It’s possible. We know the platform uses algorithms to block posts from the timelines of people who want to see them, and also decides what you see first by resetting your timeline to see whatever Facebook decides is “most relevant”.
So Facebook is entirely able to cut certain sites from the timelines of (in my case) 40,000 Vox Political supporters without them knowing anything about it.
As one respondent stated: “This is the first post I’ve seen in a while. Thought you had packed it in to be honest.”
Once one person said they hadn’t seen my posts for a while, more followed: “Same here. Hadn’t come up on my feed for ages.”
“Been seeing less and less of your posts on FB, but subscribe by email so see the articles outside of FB.”
“I haven’t seen posts from your page on my newsfeed for ages.”
“I have not had a post from you for a while.”
“I’ve not seen any in forever. Hi.”
Worse still, some people said this (or something similar to it): “I have recently had problems sharing and posting some political stuff. I get a red exclamation point in a circle and a warning that my post has been unsuccessful. Only happens with political posts though. I think that they have certain keywords they block…”
“I have the same problem. Can share anything ‘twee’ without an issue, but anything political gets the red exclamation mark.”
The practical upshot is this: “FB is definitely messing with things.”
The hard question is: What can be done about it?
We are told that Facebook’s algorithms are meant to make it easier for users to see the things that matter to them – but it seems clear from the responses to this single inquiry that this isn’t happening. Would I be wrong in thinking that FB has made it harder for users to see the things that matter to them? I don’t think so.
It seems impossible to get that point across. I’ll bring this issue to the Facebook press office but I have low expectations that anything will come of this.
Some say it is possible to get a good result if you go to the Vox Political page on FB, then beneath the “Following” button, tick “In your News Feed – See first” and “Notifications – On (Highlight posts)”.
Perhaps the best option is as laid out by this reader: “I signed up for Mike’s daily Vox Political e-mail. I coupled it with a daily ‘Canary’. I feel certain that – in so doing – I remain – so far as political truths matter – as fully, and reliably informed as it is – these days – [possible] to be.”
It is really easy to subscribe to the email service. You put your email address in the box towards the top-left of the page. I would make it more prominent if I could, but it’s a WordPress widget and that’s the way it looks.
If anyone can suggest any other possibilities, please let me know.
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