Meta has announced some new measures to comply with the soon-to-be enacted EU Digital Services Act (DSA), which implements expanded control and transparency measures for European social media users.
The DSA aims to provide more capacity for social media users to manage their online experience, as well as how their personal data is used. The DSA also aims to facilitate greater competition within the sector, by providing more insight into the operating processes of large platforms.
In line with this, Meta will soon let EU users access an algorithm-free experience in its apps, while it’s also adding more info for researchers, both to its Ad Library and within its academic insight tools.
The main update for users is the removal of algorithms, which will be welcome news to many.
As explained by Meta:
“We’re now giving our European community the option to view and discover content on Reels, Stories, Search and other parts of Facebook and Instagram that is not ranked by Meta using [algorithmic] systems. For example, on Facebook and Instagram, users will have the option to view Stories and Reels only from people they follow, ranked in chronological order, newest to oldest. They will also be able to view Search results based only on the words they enter, rather than personalized specifically to them based on their previous activity and personal interests.”
That’ll likely be music to the ears of many social media users, who view algorithmic ranking as, essentially, interference, and a means to influence what you see in each app. Many Facebook and Instagram users have been calling for the removal of algorithmic sorting for years, though when the option to switch off the algorithm has been made available, it hasn’t always proven to be as popular or beneficial as many expect.
Which is likely what will happen here as well. While the idea of viewing content in chronological order sounds appealing, the fact of the matter is that the platforms implement algorithms because they work, and enhance the user experience.
In other words, you probably won’t like Facebook or Instagram as much without the algorithmic filter, but EU users will be able to switch the algorithm back on, if they choose, under the new regulations.
TikTok has also announced that it will make algorithmic sorting optional for EU users.
On another front, Meta’s also expanding its Ads Library, which will soon display and archive all ads that target people in the EU, and include info on the dates that each ad ran, the specific parameters used for targeting (e.g., age, gender, location), who was served the ad, and more.
An ads archive could be hugely valuable for researchers looking to glean more insight into how ad campaigns seek to reach specific audiences, which could help to highlight misuse. It could also be valuable for ad managers looking to optimize their approach, with more insight into how competitor brands are looking to reach specific audiences in each app.
Meta’s also adding new dedicated tools for researchers, in order to provide more transparency, which will make it easier to track publicly posted information in each app. This is a key element of the expanded transparency push, which will provide more functional insight into how Meta’s systems work, and the relative influence they can have through public posts.
Meta says that it assembled one of the largest cross-functional teams in the company’s history to develop its DSA compliance strategy, with over 1,000 staff developing these new solutions in alignment with the update.
It’s also worth noting that the DSA is the reason why Threads isn’t available to EU users as yet, because the Threads team, working fast to implement core functional options in the app, hasn’t been able to do the expanded work to ensure DSA compliance at this stage.
It could have a big impact, and it’ll be interesting to see how the DSA alters the experience for EU users, and whether that then leads to an expansion of similar regulations in other regions.