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Facebook to Reduce Political Content on Users' News Feeds in the Coming Weeks



(Photo illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Facebook is kicking off its first tests that reduce the amount of political content that appears on users’ News Feeds.

The change is part of a company effort to prevent politics from overtaking the platform, which Facebook says has become a core complaint from users. 

“As a first step, we’ll temporarily reduce the distribution of political content in News Feed for a small percentage of people in Canada, Brazil, and Indonesia this week, and the US in the coming weeks,” the company announced on Wednesday. 

During the temporary reduction, Facebook will try out different approaches to ranking and distributing political content to users’ News Feeds. The company then plans on surveying people to get their input before settling on a final approach. But according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the ultimate goal is to reduce the political content that appears on the Facebook News Feed.

In 2016 and 2018, Facebook’s News Feed went through similar efforts meant to prioritize posts from friends and family and reduce clickbait content. Nevertheless, the company’s reputation for enabling misinformation, conspiracy theories, and extremism has only calcified in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol. Meanwhile, conservative critics continue to blast Facebook for allegedly suppressing free speech. 

Facebook didn’t reveal how it’ll classify political content, or what measures it’ll use to rank the information. But users will still be able to talk about current affairs if they seek the content out. 

“It’s important to note that we’re not removing political content from Facebook altogether,” the company said today. “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.”

Still, the company plans to stop recommending political groups on Facebook. “One of the top pieces of feedback that we are hearing from our community right now is that people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services,” Zuckerberg said last month. 

Facebook’s tests won’t affect COVID-19-related posts from authoritative groups, such as the CDC. “Content from official government agencies and services will also be exempt,” the company added.

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