Dozens of Vermonters gathered at a Burlington hotel Monday to offer suggestions to Facebook employees on how the social media giant can improve its News Feed.
“I think it’s important to connect with folks that we wouldn’t usually connect to,” said Minjae Lee, project marketing manager for Facebook’s News Feed team. “Often, it’s really easy to go to some of the bigger cities where we have a larger presence and office but I think it’s really important to hear from all people that are part of our community.”
According to Pew Research Group, roughly 4 in 10 Americans get their news through Facebook. In 2016, Russian-linked operatives used the platform to launch a disinformation campaign before the presidential election.
In a recent interview with the BBC, a Facebook executive called fake news an “existential threat.” Lee said Facebook recognizes it has a responsibility to inform users of the tools available to help optimize the News Feed experience.
“We really want to make sure that people on our platform are informed,” Lee said. “Informed about the kinds of articles and news they’re seeing on the platform, and that they’re able to see it within the context of other articles or other publishers.”
Monday’s session at the Hotel Vermont is part of a nationwide tour. The company’s team has made stops in West Virginia and Washington, as well.
The Burlington stop attracted communications students and business owners, as well as casual Facebook users.
Hiro Soga runs social media for a marketing company said he said Facebook benefits from opening a line of communication with small cities across the country.
“To me, Facebook is just Mark Zuckerberg, but these guys are coming out here helping promote their platform,” Soga said. “I know they’ve gotten a lot of backlash recently, but I think this is something good that will help instill a little bit more security or trust, especially with smaller markets like Burlington.”
The company says it will use the information to build the framework for an international tour with the same purpose.
“Even if we build the best controls on the planet, if people don’t know about them, don’t know where to find them, or don’t know how to use them, then it’s all for naught,” Lee said. “We really want to focus on developing new controls and educating people that the current tools exist.”