Why Is Facebook Interested in Your Unpublished Status Updates?

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Most Facebook users think a lot about what they post on the social network. Far too many ‘friends’ understand the far-reaching implications that can result when a post is taken the wrong way, someone disagrees with a political stance, or the subject of an angry status catches wind of an update that has been written about him or her in the heat of the moment. Now that Facebook serves over a billion users, consumers know all too well how much of an impact their words can really have, and most (at least hopefully) act accordingly.

That’s why many respect the value of the backspace button, and plug words into the status field only to later take them away without pressing the ‘Enter’ button. Users think they are safe as long as they don’t press publish, but interestingly enough, new reports illuminate that it’s not exactly that simple. A recent article by Slate highlights that Facebook actually has access to all that its users type — even that which they don’t publish — and the company’s experts study these unposted thoughts to better understand why they weren’t published in the first place. Unpublished posts don’t benefit Facebook because they withhold information that can be used by the social network to decide what ads to feed users based on what they post, so the social network enlists professionals to better understand why certain posts are left in the drafts folder, and how to better discourage that placement in the future.

According to Slate, two Facebookers named Sauvik Das and Adam Kramer recently published a paper detailing their study of the self-censorship behavior collected from 5 billion Facebook users, and examined backspaced status updates, as well as other aborted posts and comments. The researchers use a code available to Facebook that allows them to access anything users type into the text box, reporting that metadata back to Facebook for further examination.

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