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Here's the real story about Facebook's influence on which stories you see

Spoiler: It's not a secret.

David Ramos/Getty Images
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Guys. Look. Let me show you the real Facebook media influence story.

That’s a 47-minute (!) long video of a walk through a New York City park. It exists because the New York Times created it, because Facebook told the New York Times to make it.

Let’s be clear: Facebook didn’t tell the Times to make that particular video. But Facebook told the Times to make stuff for its new Facebook Live video push. So the Times has assigned a team of seven (!) full-time employees to make stuff for its new Facebook Live video push.

Facebook is paying the Times to make Facebook Live video. It is paying other publishers, including Vox Media (which owns this site) to make Facebook Live video, too.

But the truth is, Facebook doesn’t need to write publishers checks* to get them to do what it wants: All it needs to do is make it clear what kind of stuff it wants in its News Feed. It doesn’t need to tell us how high to jump — we’ll go as high as we can.

So to sum up: Facebook’s managers have very specific ideas about the things they want to appear on Facebook. They communicate those ideas clearly to publishers, who do their best to accommodate them.

None of this is secret, and you don’t need a Senate inquiry to get people to talk about it: They’re happy to tell you.

* We are still happy to take your money, Facebook!

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