Facebook Moving To De-Emphasize Political Content—Again, Report Says
Facebook is engaging in yet another push to diminish political content on its platform amid ongoing criticism, according to a Tuesday report from Axios which detailed plans to lower the volume of political and current events posts in the Facebook News Feed.
The report says Facebook plans to announce that it is de-emphasizing political posts in the News Feed in response to negative feedback from users.
It will also expand the testing of algorithm changes it introduced earlier this year in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Indonesia, which reportedly drew positive responses from users.
The company in the test reduced its emphasis on certain engagement signals like the likelihood a user would comment on or share a post, and instead moved to prioritize other user feedback.
These News Feed tests will be expanded to other countries including Costa Rica, Sweden, Spain and Ireland, according to Axios.
Facebook did not immediately confirm the details of the report to Forbes.
Axios described these planned changes as “part of a gradual effort by Facebook to make its users’ experience less political and contentious.”
The social media company has made numerous algorithm tweaks and policy changes over the years in response to criticism over the prevalence of political content on its site. A major overhaul of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm was announced in January by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said it would prioritize “meaningful social interactions” over “relevant content.” The company also stopped recommending political and civic groups to users. It has emphasized how small a portion of Facebook’s content is political (6%) and recently released a report arguing political content does not perform well on its platform.
Nonetheless, data from Facebook’s data analytics tool CrowdTangle shows the platform is regularly dominated by divisive political figures. “Facebook’s Top 10,” a Twitter account run by New York Times technology columnist Kevin Roose, documents how right-wing pundits like Ben Shapiro, Dan Bongino and Franklin Graham gain the most engagements on their link-based posts on a near-daily basis. As documented by Forbes, interactions on Bongino’s Facebook page eclipse that of mainstream news outlets like the New York Times. As detailed by a July investigation by the Times, Facebook has been in the midst of an internal struggle over how to counter the narrative its platform is a right-wing echo chamber. Use of the CrowdTangle tool by journalists and researchers has reportedly been a big focus of the turmoil, with some executives arguing Facebook “should selectively disclose its own data in the form of carefully curated reports, rather than handing outsiders the tools to discover it themselves,” according to the Times.
“Facebook Says Political Content Isn’t Popular On Its Platform—But Ben Shapiro And Right Wing Figures Still Trend Daily” (Forbes)
“Inside Facebook’s Data Wars” (The New York Times)