c-base, Netzpolitick Abend, 1st November 2016

Claudio Agosti @_vecna


Did you hear that Facebook is messing up with the timeline?

-- someone, in the U-Bahn

In order to see the effects of a personalisation algorithm:

after September, a small team is born around the project, and we took steps to reach a beta phase.

In spite of appearances, I feel a strong esteem for Facebook as a company

This project is intended to support society, policy makers, journalists and users to get a better understanding about power dynamics in the algorithms age

Facebook has 1 billion ~700 million (maybe) users worldwide, will remain for many years a reference point and their influence can only increase

Society was not so ready, probably?

technology takes a different path

  • software → app → algorithms are our technological assistants, especially personalisation algorithms
  • Supposedly, they help us having a better experience, a more appropriate information diet.

Collective behavior

  • It is driven by Social policies
    • Tools for the collectivity to do self-governance and self-awareness
    • Intended to dissuade harmful behaviors and incentivate useful behaviors

    Social policies have to be openly discussed

via Reuters (2016-06-25)

via TheGuardian(2014-06-29) + Paper.

via TechnologyReview


a medium post of Zeynep Tufekci


Personalisation algorithms are a tool of Social Politics!

problems with that?

  • Collectivity has no accountability on the social outcome
  • is simply powerless
  • Currently private company are driven by business interest determining what it is better and what it is not
“These algorithms, when they are not transparent, can lead to a distortion of our perception, they narrow our breadth of information.”

"distortion of perception", aka

  • Filter bubble
  • Echo chambers
  • Algorithm discrimination
  • (Technocratic scapegoat ?)

the project

Our vision is to increase transparency behind personalization algorithms, so that people can have more effective control of their online Facebook experience and more awareness of the information to which they are exposed.

How does it work?

  • Facebook users who joined our project are named Supporters. It is an explicit opt-in, you need to install a browser extension do be part of it.
  • the Extension, monitors and scrapes the Supporter feed, when it finds a public shared post, it collects the HTML section, and sends it to a server
  • All other content, for example the one shared with friends only, are ignored
we don't want to risk to leak activities intended for a restricted audience, because we might have no control over the dataset.

how to keep supporters engaged?

we can provide informations Facebook cannot!

  • Escape the filter bubble
  • Understand your personal trends
  • Understand you friends influence
  • To see the Human networks you belong

more happy users, more data for researcher!

Personalisation algorithms influence the collectively, and collectivity have to be analyzed

Have some fresh/new users behaving in the same way, might facebook treating them equally? which are the parameters that influence more?

💡 Can you emulate an high income Luxembourg user and compare with a low income granpa near the German border? (different browser)

ALPHA with the Tampermonkey alpha, we are analyzing all the posts, but not the content.

BETA released in 1 month, and dataset of the alpha will be deleted.


  • Provide interfaces with actual features, features that facebook can't provide, is the strategical way to get users feel a beneficial effects from adopting the tool
  • RealityMeter
  • RealityCheck developed by DensityDesign Design Department of the Politecnico di Milano


Time of activity of the supporter

Absolute order post list


Roadmap, 11/2016 to 03/2017

and now?

The current team

  • We are a small distributed unfunded team of developers and philosophers
  • I'm leaving Berlin :°( but the fresh CTO, Alberto, is here →
  • Our advisors are Luca and Andrea of OSD
  • And Kiki is in Bologna, hosting presentation in Italy and having good pasta ;)