Facebook to test ways to ‘reduce’ political content


Facebook will start piloting methods to reduce the amount of political content users see, the company said Wednesday. 

The push to dial back political content, which includes posts from verified political figures, follows mounting scrutiny over the platform’s handling of misinformation and hate speech. 

Facebook said it will “temporarily reduce the distribution of political content” in news feeds for a “small percentage of people” starting this week in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia, and will expand the test for some users in the U.S. in coming weeks. 

“During these initial tests we’ll explore a variety of ways to rank political content in people’s feeds using different signals, and then decide on the approaches we’ll use going forward,” Facebook’s product management director, Aastha Gupta, said in a blog post

Users will be surveyed about their experience during the tests to assess “how effective” the new approaches are, according to Facebook. 

Information about the coronavirus pandemic from authoritative health organizations, as well as content from official government agencies and services, will be exempt from the tests. 

Pages for individual politicians or public officials will not be exempt in the tests, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed. 

“It’s important to note that we’re not removing political content from Facebook altogether. Our goal is to preserve the ability for people to find and interact with political content on Facebook, while respecting each person’s appetite for it at the top of their News Feed,” Gupta said. 

The tests build on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment on a call with investors last month to dial back political content on the platform. 

On the call, Zuckerberg also said Facebook would permanently keep its pre-election policy of not recommending political groups to users. 

Democrats pushed Facebook to make changes to its algorithm regarding the recommending of political content after the deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The insurrection was promoted and planned on various mainstream and fringe sites, and election misinformation that spurred the riot was boosted across social media platforms including Facebook. 

Tags Facebook Facebook Mark Zuckerberg misinformation political content

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