Scam Facebook’s Content Management System to boost your political signal

In this time of online activism and social media information exchange, our connections can become one of our most powerful political tools. Sharing news from individuals who are actually experiencing events is one of the best responses available, especially when mainstream media is under-reporting or is blocked from access. That being said, it is not always so easy.

Facebook filters content from the newsfeed if it is deemed negative, political, or non-important. Facebook is highly motivated to keep its users happy and online, and thus censors news items that could lead to users leaving the site, even temporarily. They simply will not take the risk of sharing something that your friends might find boring or offensive. Just because you are seeing posts that are important to you does not mean that your friends are; it simply means that Facebook has a good understanding of what you personally value.

If you are sharing important news events but not receiving the usual level of engagement with your posts, or are actually seeing items disappear off the main newsfeed, read on for some solutions.

1. Insert unicode spaces into trigger words

Unicode is the text of the internet, and there are many characters that look- but do not act- like the spaces and letters we normally use. Many of these are unscannable, meaning that they invisible to the code for webcrawlers that algorithmically sort your data. This can totally mess up censorship or skew ratings.

Take the words I have pasted below.

F​erg​uso​n P​rotes​ts Mic​ha​elBr​own Mis​sou​ri

They look normal. But if you copy/paste them and try to key through, you will see your cursor ‘catch’ several times in each word. This pause is where a no-width space has been inserted, which should trip up any basic sorting system. Here is a place where you can copy those spaces. Stick them in anything that might catch the attention of a bot. Here are some other unicode options.

Note- unscannable words won’t trend, for the same reasons. But humans can see them just fine.

2. Use a URL shortener to mask your links

That same scanning system also looks at the text of URL addresses you are posting. If they include trigger words, use a free shortening service. Here is a fairly comprehensive list of available options.

3. Find the best news article that is already on your feed, and repost it

I’m not sure how Facebook rates content and why some news sites are valued above others, but if you are seeing posts on your timeline at all, it means that they have already been cleared. Try to find one with a few shares already, and throw your own weight behind it.

screenshot taken at 2:30 am, 8/14/14

4. Hashtags do nothing

Don’t bother using them. They don’t work on Facebook. Some studies have pointed at the fact that hashtagged posts seem to have slightly less organic reach than those without hashtags. They certainly aren’t contributing to trends, which seem to be heavily biased or at least time-lagged. In this case, using a pertinent hashtag will probably just get the post hidden.

5. Photographs are weighted heavier than text

The adage is true. Posts with photos reach much further than those without. Also, two or more photos seems to be better than one- perhaps because Facebook assumes that they are from an event. Tagging your friends in photos also boosts their reach significantly but can get you reported or at least de-friended, so I’ll leave that one to you.

6. Turn your text into a photograph

If you are sharing a shorter sentiment, consider making it into an image before posting. You will get both the photo-boost and avoid keyword detection. Of course, I have no idea if Facebook is utilizing capcha-like text readers to analyze photos which include text, but that technology does exist. If it seems like your text-based photo is not getting seen, consider using some capcha tools to render it less readable. There are a lot of services for this purpose, but this one is just fine.

7. Use ‘Life Changes!’ language

These are the kinds of words that you would use if posting about your new job, your school applications, your baby, your new pet, your marriage, the downpayment on your home, etc. Facebook is incentivized to give these posts precedence. Some examples- Big, Important, Wow, Excited, Exciting, Change, Announce, Life, Accepted, Appreciate, Support, So, Thankful, Moving. Exclamation points also seem to carry some weight. Life events are also weighted heavier, so you could always tag your post as such.

8. Consider buying an Ad

How important is this to you? Would you spend money to get this information out? Promoted posts reach far far beyond anything you could hope to achieve organically, and you can target demographics that are very different than your usual friend group. Of course, if you are going to be spending money, consider the reach that your Facebook has in the first place. Could you just message your friends? Call them? Maybe your $5 is better spent donating to a news organization or community group that is on the ground doing said reporting in the first place.

9. Let your real face do the talking

Facebook is a social media site, but it is still one founded on principles of IRL relationships. The best thing you can do to achieve content value is to physically go to a protest, allow yourself to be photographed, and share said photographs. Change your profile picture, change your header, tag yourself in everything. Be a physical body in space that stands for something.

Facebook will do the rest.

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