Facebook has announced that it is rolling out a new plan that will prevent the proliferation of political posts on its platform. However, according to a spokesperson from the company, this does not equate to a blanket ban. In essence, social media will try to de-prioritize political and current events content.
The move comes after the company received too many complaints from users that there is too much political news on their feed. Facebook is expected to stop relying heavily on its algorithm to determine what goes into the news feed.
The algorithm decides which content to bring to the news feed based on how likely a user is going to share or comment on a given post. The social media giant will instead conduct surveys on user interest and track their feedback on what they prefer to come to their feed. The new plan is expected to roll out in small bits and will begin testing in countries outside the United States.
Over the last few years, Facebook has come under fire for doing very little to prevent the spread of misinformation on its platform. The social media company was accused of letting Russian bots and other foreign interests influence US public opinion through a series of targeted misinformation campaigns.
The company was also implicated in a massive data breach involving British PR firm Cambridge Analytica. Just recently, the spread of COVID-19 misinformation and vaccine conspiracy theories has also been rife on the platform. At one point US president Joe Biden accused the company of murder by allowing so much misleading information to spread about COVID on its platforms.
But Facebook maintains that it has put in place measures to deal with this. However, the least move to de-prioritize politics is not a strategy for removing misinformation. It's simply designed to reduce how likely people are to see any political post on their feed, regardless of whether they are legit or not.
Political news websites that rely heavily on social media for web traffic are likely to get a huge hit once the new plan rolls out in the United States. Nonetheless, the Facebook algorithm has always been criticized for pushing extreme news events and highly partisan posts designed to elicit a reaction from the user.
After all, since the algorithm will recommend a post based on how likely you are to comment or share, posts that are highly provocative and radical tend to get prioritized. Analysts say that all the top 10 performing posts on Facebook have always been dominated by right-wing content. But this will now change thanks to this new effort by the social media giant.
However, this is not the first time Facebook is taking action against political content. In 2020, the CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced through an op-ed on USA Today that the platform will allow users to turn off political ads if they wished. The social media giant also noted that it would stop recommending political groups after the January 6 insurrection as it emerged the riots at the capitol were organized through Facebook.