Apps that run on algorithm-fueled personalization are gaining traction. Popular social network TikTok now has more than 1 billion users, and the demand for this type of customization via technology is not going unnoticed.
In early 2023, the co-founders of Instagram launched Artifact, a social app optimizing artificial intelligence to deliver a “personalized news feed” based on users’ interests. The app currently has two key features: a feed with popular articles from major news outlets to smaller bloggers and a feed that is constantly built based on users’ readership behavior. The founders of Artifact are already discussing potential features that may be underway including sharing articles with friends to discuss in private chats as well as following users to view articles they have reposted with their commentaries.
With chaos ensuing over at Twitter between a surge in misinformation and derogatory tweets, the firing and resigning of thousands of employees, declining interest from advertisers and glitching, Artifact debuted at the perfect time and may be the catalyst of a few (side) effects:
- A significant increase in news readership – Last year, The New York Times reported an increase of 180,000 online subscribers in the third quarter of 2022 alone. Despite trust in the media declining, publishers are expecting an increase in subscriptions in 2023. Social media is known for its power to keep users locked in for hours and Artifact’s potential in this realm should be no exception. With more features for customization, such as pausing articles from certain publications from being on your feed, as well as features for sharing articles with friends and following users, there is so much for users to be engrossed in. In turn, Artifact may further the impact of news influencers, causing waves of trends in article popularity and public opinion.
- The double-edged sword of the algorithm – “Every time we use machine learning to improve the consumer experience, things got really good really quickly.” Co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger understand how to give the people what they want. However, there are already circulating concerns about the power of algorithms to keep users in a cloud of their own opinions and ideas. Will Artifact continue to push this, furthering confirmation bias through the fusion of algorithm-based social media and traditional media – two fields already accused of being divisive?
- A greater spread of misinformation – As more avenues for news readership and news sharing emerge, there is an increasing threat of the spread of misinformation. Artifact plans to address this by only including both left- and right-wing publishers that comply with its editorial standards of quality and by removing posts that contain disinformation. Systrom is vocal about Artifact’s commitment to quality news and has commented on “companies’ unwillingness to make subjective judgments in the name of quality and progress for humanity”. However, the founders will only be able to prove the app’s competence in doing so as the platform gains more users and features.
Social media platforms have proven their services and disservices to the news industry in the past decades. Elon Musk’s Twitter is a primary example of a once distinguished tool for journalism and PR going awry. While Artifact’s co-founders have seemingly addressed major concerns regarding news media, like the propagation of misinformation and amplification of the wrong voices, their commitment to quality news circulation will require immense integrity with respect to the power of influencers, virality and artificial intelligence.