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Meta has softened its plan to demote content about politics and social issues on Facebook after reportedly finding its suppression techniques created problems.

The parent company of Facebook and Instagram said it has chosen a path that turned down the political volume to match what users want. But Meta reportedly found that more extreme measures to muffle political content were less popular.

“As Mark [Zuckerberg] said almost two years ago, people wanted to see less politics overall on Facebook while still being able to engage with political content if they want to — and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing,” said Meta spokeswoman Dani Lever in a statement. “Over the last several years we tested various approaches, ultimately implementing changes that reduce politics, while giving people the experiences they want.”

Following the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol, Meta said it would pursue changes to limit the distribution of political content on its platform. The company said in February 2021 that the new approach would allow people to find and interact with political content while addressing people’s appetite for less politics atop their news feed on the platform.

News publishers were not exempt from the restrictions, and the company said in February 2021 that broader limits were not intended to affect a single brand or publisher.

The company later pushed a harsher demotion of all content on “sensitive” topics, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing internal documents. But muting politics resulted in declining views of news publishers such as CNN and Fox News, user complaints about misinformation grew, and an internal analysis showed heavy demotions would come at a “high and inefficient cost.”

By the summer of 2022, Meta had opted for a more gradual approach to turning down the volume.

“Our tests have concluded and demonstrated that placing less emphasis on shares and comments for political content is an effective way to reduce the amount of political content people experience in their feed,” Meta said in a July 2022 update on its blog. “We have now implemented these changes globally.”

Meta’s experimentation with the visibility and ranking of political content comes as other social media companies rethink how their platforms disseminate content to users.

For example, Twitter owner Elon Musk has pursued a more permissive environment while still slowing negative and hateful content. He described the policy in November as “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.”

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