As a futurist, I write often about the advantages of digital transformation for organizations and how early adopters gain extra advantages that aren’t available to laggards. One of the best demonstrations of this point was when Brad Parscale, the digital director of Mr. Trump's 2016 campaign, shared that using Facebook was an important factor in their win. In his words, "Facebook moved the needle for us." He understood how Facebook's computer algorithms worked before others did.
Let’s pause a moment to define what computer algorithms are. A computer algorithm is software code written by people - in this case Facebook employees. Algorithms consist of rules and code that enable software to perform automated reasoning. How does Facebook use them? Kevin Roose, a technology columnist for The Times, describes it as follows, "The platform [Facebook and its algorithms] are designed to amplify emotionally resonant posts, and people and organizations that are skilled at turning passionate grievances into powerful algorithm fodder win.”
Facebook’s algorithms are programmed to amplify content based on these rules: controversy wins, and negative content beats positive content. Facebook’s algorithms love arguments, debates and agitation. Parscale understood this before his opponents. A recent Forbes article also supports this view, "The recommendation algorithms on social media might be complex and somewhat mysterious, but they generally favor engagement; thus, controversy." If you want to attract a mass audience on Facebook or many other social media sites be controversial - that's how the algorithms are programmed. It's not truth or virtue, it's whatever causes audience engagement (i.e. high blood pressure). Higher audience engagement, not surprisingly, equates to higher ad revenue for Facebook.