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Here’s How Facebook Tests Sponsored Posts

Can you tell the difference between a status and an ad? Facebook is surveying users’ feeds to find out.

Facebook took some heat over the weekend when New Scientist revealed that the company had secretly manipulated the feeds of more than 600,000 users for a psychological study about how positive or negative posts affected users’ own emotions. But some of the social network’s content-testing techniques are almost comically out in the open.


Facebook has been peppering some users’ feeds with posts accompanied by a survey question: “How much do you agree with this statement? This post feels like an ad.” A prompt asks the viewer to rate a post on its ad vibe, using a five-point scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” As the slideshow above demonstrates, the survey includes posts that are obviously ads and others that are clearly regular status updates; only a couple were ambiguous.

The purpose of the survey isn’t explicit, but we imagine Facebook is looking to integrate sponsored content that feels more social and less commercial, so that users take a longer look. Either that, or they just came up with a novel way to get you to view a few more ads.

Does this make you uncomfortable? Agree or disagree in the comments.

About the author

Evie Nagy is a former staff writer at FastCompany.com, where she wrote features and news with a focus on culture and creativity. She was previously an editor at Billboard and Rolling Stone, and has written about music, business and culture for a variety of publications.

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