Facebook to Let You Say Why You Hide News Feed Posts

Over next 4 months, Facebook says it will improve News Feed customization tools.

ByABC News
July 23, 2013, 4:12 PM

July 23, 2013 — -- It's not exactly a dislike button, but Facebook soon plans to roll out ways to better understand why you don't like something in your News Feed.

Currently, when you hide something in your News Feed, Facebook begins feeding you less content from that person or page, but the company is working on ways to better understand why you don't want to see a photo, status update, article or advertisement.

"Over the next few months what you will see from us is more on why people like and don't like certain things in their feed," Facebook's Product Manager for Ads Fidji Simo told ABC News. "We are planning to refine those so users can tell us exactly the reasons they are hiding that piece of content."

Simo wouldn't get into specifics on what the implementation will look like, but said Facebook will be testing the new menus and options soon and that users can expect to see some of the tweaks over the next three to four months. She explained that users would be able to easily tell Facebook if something was, for example, offensive or uninteresting right from the feed stream.

You've Got Hidden Facebook Messages: Check the Other Folder in Your Inbox

"If a lot of people start reporting that something is offensive, it's something we would probably not show to a lot more users," she explained. "If you tell us that something is uninteresting we would show you less about that, but we wouldn't use that signal with other users."

The company offers something similar when you hide an advertisement that appears on the right rail of the website. If you choose to hide an ad there, it will ask you if you found it uninteresting, misleading, explicit, offensive, or repetitive.

Right now if you hide a post in your desktop or mobile feed, Facebook doesn't offer those detailed options. In fact, it doesn't know if it is the topic or the person you aren't interested in seeing. Currently, you can adjust the frequency of updates from specific people or pages by making settings tweaks. Or you can more actively "like" or comment on posts to tell Facebook what sort of content you do like to see.

But the move isn't just to improve the experience of seeing posts you enjoy from your friends.

As you might have guessed from Simo's title -- Product Manager for Ads -- the tweaks are an effort to help Facebook feed users more relevant ads, ads it hopes users will click on more. Simo said the new functionality will be rolled out for all types of feed posts, including ads and sponsored stories.

Why Your Facebook Search Bar Looks Different

In March, Facebook began placing ads from its Facebook Exchange program in the News Feed; those ads are based on users' browsing behavior and history.

"Allowing advertisers to reach people in News Feed is important because people spend more time in News Feed than any other part of Facebook," Facebook wrote in March when it announced the feature.

The forthcoming customization features, though beneficial for users, could be even more beneficial to Facebook's business, say experts.

"This will be as valuable, if not more valuable, for Facebook because they will have more information about the users' likes, dislikes and preferences," Rebecca Lieb, digital media and advertising analyst at the Altimeter Group, told ABC News.

That, of course, has been the juggling act of the company -- how to reconcile users' concerns about their personal information and data privacy with creating a better advertising business.

"Facebook has to please both constituencies. By giving users more choice they are saying you will have more choice and will have a better experience, but it's always important to realize that in return you are giving Facebook more power to adjust that experience," Lieb added.

But Facebook, as it has been saying for quite a while, maintains that the advertising experience is one in the same with the entire experience on the social network.

"The more relevant ads are, the better the Facebook experience," Simo said. "Our objective is to align advertising with people's specific interests."