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How to Turn Off Facebook’s Algorithm … Temporarily

Facebook screenshot
Facebook screenshot

Facebook used to allow its members to see updates from their friends in simple reverse-chronological order. Today, the default view for your News Feed is to see it as Facebook wants you to, based on its algorithms that promote some stories to the top and bury others so you’ll never, ever see them.

You can get Facebook unfiltered, but only for a while: The service will flip the switch back eventually.

Read more: Facebook, Twitter, and What a Social Network Owes Its Members

To see Facebook in the raw, as it were, here’s what to do:

On the website, click the downward-facing triangle to the right of “News Feed” at the top left of the page and select Most Recent instead of Top Stories.

In its iOS and Android apps, you tap the square icon consisting of three horizontal bars (what techies call a “hamburger button”) at the top of the screen, scroll down until you see Feeds or News Feed, and then make the same choice.

Even Twitter has algorithms
Twitter’s timeline is algorithm-free, but its lists of trending topics and suggestions for whom to follow are not.

To get a list of trending topics that’s not personalized for you “based on who you follow and your location,” on the website, click the Change link near Trends, and then Change on the next box that pops up, and then select a location to instead get trends based on geography. To completely turn off the filters, you can get worldwide trends by choosing the Select your location link next to Nearby locations and choosing Worldwide in the Region drop-down.

Twitter screenshot
Twitter screenshot

Start here.

To opt out of “tailored suggestions,” in turn, bring up your Security and Privacy settings and click to clear the checkbox next to Tailor Twitter based on my recent website visits.

Confession: I haven’t done any of these things. It’s too tedious to keep flipping back Facebook’s display to Most Recent, I usually ignore Twitter’s list of trending topics, and Twitter’s suggestions for whom to follow seem accurate enough.

Comments can also be modified
Comment streams can also be ordered by user interaction and other factors. On sites like this one, for example, comments don’t come through unfiltered. Not only can readers vote for or against individual comments with the little thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons you see, but Yahoo Tech editors and writers can promote or demote comments. Comments that editors respond to also move up in the list.

Email Rob at rob@robpegoraro.com; follow him on Twitter at @robpegoraro.