To understand, we must go back to January 2018. A year ago, Facebook decided to change its recommendation algorithm, this set of rules that defines how the countless publications appear on the newsfeed (“newsfeed “) of each user.
Officially, Facebook has explained this change through the fight against false news and addiction (unofficially for economic reasons). The new algorithm favors local interactions between family and friends, to the detriment of media content that has taken up a lot of space.
By offering more visibility to publications between relatives, the “new” Facebook would increase the visibility of angry messages and also “fake news”, which largely fuel the movement of “yellow vests”, and which benefit from the emotional dimension of social networks.
The American site BuzzFeed News has examined this phenomenon and cites the case of these groups of disgruntled citizens baptized “Anger” who appeared in the Southwest at the beginning of the year. It was, in a way, the premises of “yellow vests”. At first, the phenomenon went almost unnoticed. But after the change of algorithm, in January, the pages of the groups “Anger” would have suddenly benefited from an increased visibility.
By privileging private and local interactions, Facebook was able to help spread the excitement even though the goal announced by the social network was reversed: give priority to a “reliable, informative and local information” supposed to favor the “Wellness” (implied: unlike press articles). Another paradox, “yellow vests” think that Facebook censors, while it is false and that it is precisely the opposite that seems to occur.
On the Facebook side, it is reported that there has been no increase in this type of activity. On the contrary, according to the platform, the phenomenon seems to feed on the media, as evidenced by the profusion of references to press articles in the posts of “yellow vests”.
Finally, difficult to measure the real impact of the algorithm on the mobilization of “yellow vests” because, moreover, the network has deployed the major means to moderate content; including removing appeals for violence and decreasing the scope of false news.
It will probably take time to understand exactly what happened. It appears, in any case, as a new illustration of the growing influence, not always mastered, social networks in life in society.