Face­book­seek­sto be ‘mean­ing­ful’

Irish Examiner - - World News - Bar­bara Or­tu­tay

Saudi women have been al­lowed into a sports sta­dium for the first time to watch a foot­ball match be­tween two lo­cal teams.

How­ever, they were seg­re­gated in the stands from the male-only crowd with des­ig­nated seat­ing in the so-called “fam­ily sec­tion”.

The move was the first of Saudi Ara­bia’s so­cial re­forms planned for this year to ease re­stric­tions on women, spear­headed by the king­dom’s 32-year-old crown prince.

The first sta­dium to open its doors to women was in the Red Sea city of Jed­dah.

At the Jed­dah sta­dium, young Saudi women wear­ing bright or­ange vests over their abayas were de­ployed to help with the fe­male crowds.

“Wel­come to Saudi fam­i­lies,” read a sign in Ara­bic erected across the sec­tion of the sta­dium re­served for women.

“It’s very fes­tive and very well or­gan­ised. A lot of peo­ple are just re­ally happy to be here. I think there’s a lot of ex­cite­ment when you walked in, es­pe­cially among the chil­dren,” said Sarah Swick of the match be­tween Saudi foot­ball teams Al-Ahli and Al-Batin.

“I def­i­nitely think we will come back,” she said.

The sta­di­ums were also fit­ted with fe­male prayer ar­eas and toi­lets, as well as sep­a­rate en­trances and car parks for fe­male spec­ta­tors. Face­book is tweak­ing what peo­ple see to make their time on it more “mean­ing­ful” in a move that could hurt pub­lish­ers and news or­gan­i­sa­tions that rely on it to spread their con­tent.

Face­book has said be­fore that it will em­pha­sise per­sonal con­nec­tions over busi­ness pages and celebri­ties that peo­ple fol­low. But the latest move rep­re­sents a ma­jor shift, one in­tended to high­light the posts users are most likely to en­gage with rather than pas­sively con­sume.

The com­pany says peo­ple will likely spend less time on Face­book as a re­sult.

The changes come as the com­pany faces crit­i­cism that so­cial me­dia can make peo­ple feel de­pressed and iso­lated.

There will be fewer posts from brands, pages, and me­dia com­pa­nies and more from peo­ple. There will be fewer videos, which Face­book con­sid­ers “pas­sive.”

“The re­search shows that when we use so­cial me­dia to con­nect with peo­ple we care about, it can be good for our well­be­ing,” Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg wrote in a post.

“We can feel more con­nected and less lonely, and that cor­re­lates with long term mea­sures of hap­pi­ness and health. On the other hand, pas­sively read­ing ar­ti­cles or watch­ing videos — even if they’re en­ter­tain­ing or in­for­ma­tive — may not be as good.”

The move to high­light posts that Face­book con­sid­ers “mean­ing­ful” and re­duce the em­pha­sis on oth­ers could shrink the so­cial me­dia gi­ant’s role as a ma­jor news source for many peo­ple.

The move will not af­fect ad­ver­tise­ments — users will con­tinue to see the same ads they have be­fore, “mean­ing­ful” or not. But busi­nesses that use Face­book to con­nect with their cus­tomers without pay­ing for ads will also feel the pain.

Face­book has long been crit­i­cised for cre­at­ing “fil­ter bub­bles”, the echo cham­bers of friends and like-minded peo­ple whose views are re­in­forced by their friends’ posts on the plat­form.

The com­pany says that is sim­i­lar to how peo­ple make friends and in­ter­act with each other off­line. Face­book says its re­search shows that users are ex­posed to more di­ver­gent views on its plat­form than they would be oth­er­wise.

This is dif­fi­cult to ver­ify in­de­pen­dently since the com­pany is cau­tious about pro­vid­ing data to out­siders.

Last week, Mr Zucker­berg said his “per­sonal chal­lenge” for 2018 (some­thing he’s done ev­ery year since 2009), will be to fix Face­book.

“Face­book has a lot of work to do — whether it’s pro­tect­ing our com­mu­nity from abuse and hate, de­fend­ing against in­ter­fer­ence by na­tion states, or mak­ing sure that time spent on Face­book is time well spent,” he wrote.

Mr Zucker­berg said it wasn’t pos­si­ble to pre­vent all mis­takes or abuses, but Face­book was mak­ing too many er­rors in en­forc­ing its poli­cies and pre­vent­ing mis­use.

Pic­ture: Christo­pher Polk

An­gelina Jolie at the Crit­ics’ Choice Awards at Barker Han­gar in Santa Mon­ica, Cal­i­for­nia. Jolie was pro­ducer of ‘The Bread­win­ner’, by Mi­dle­ton-born an­i­ma­tor Nora Twomey, a film that lost out to Coco for best an­i­mated fea­ture. ‘The Shape Of Water’ won...

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