Facebook’s Publisher Now Shows Who Content Will Be Shared With

Facebook’s content publisher now automatically shows who the content you’re posting will be shared with. The lock icon users can click to set the distribution parameter for status updates and other content now sits above the publisher and displays if the content will be visible to Everyone, Friends and Networks, Friends of Friends, Friends Only, or a custom set. This will both encourage users to restrict visibility of sensitive content, and remind them what their default distribution setting for that content type is.

The lock icon was added to the bottom right corner of the publisher when Facebook revamped its privacy interface in May, and only displayed who content would be shared with when clicked. It allowed users to select one of the general privacy buckets to distribute to, block specific people, or distribute to a pre-made friend list. However, it was likely forgotten, misunderstood, or ignored by many.

Now when users select which kind of content they wish to post using the publisher tabs, they’ll immediately see a “Share [content type] with [distribution parameter]” message above the composition fields. Users will see the distribution parameter for that content type which they set in their privacy settings whenever they post status updates, photos, links or videos. For instance, my status updates are visible to all my friends except my sister, so when I compose a status I see the message “Share Status with Friends Only; except: Aly Constine”.

Since Facebook Questions are always public, the distribution parameter for Questions can’t be changed from Everyone. Instead of offering control, this reminds users not to ask Questions that their friends or anyone might find objectionable. For other content types, users can still click the Customize distribution parameter to activate the Custom Privacy popup. There they can set distribution to Only Me, Specific Friends, specific friend lists, and their networks, as well as hide the content from certain users.

As Facebook’s population expands across demographics, users increasingly have “friends” which include sensitive groups such as parents, young family members, professional contacts, employers, and near strangers. If users are to share as much as possible, it’s crucial that it be easy to control which subsets of their friends see what content. Its fine to post lewd jokes, crazy photos, emotional stories, or niche articles on Facebook as long as you ensure only the appropriate people see them. This interface modification to the publisher’s distribution parameters control makes that easier and more apparent than ever.

Update: The distribution parameter is also displayed in the same way for posts made to the walls of Pages and personal profiles of other users. In these cases the publisher reads, “Share [content type] on [Page or User Name]’s Wall”. Posts of Questions to Page and profile walls still read “Share Question with Everyone”.