Facebook Moves to ‘Reduce’ Political Content

February 10, 2021 Updated: February 10, 2021

Facebook said Wednesday it will move to muffle the reach of political content on the social media platform, saying it will start testing news feeds for users in Canada, Indonesia, and Brazil.

“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 on Wednesday.

Her comments echo those made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg several weeks ago. Zuckerberg said on Feb. 2: “We’re also currently considering steps that we can take to reduce the amount of political content in [the] news feed as well.”

Users will be surveyed about the tests to reduce political content, said Facebook.

Individual politicians’ pages will not be exempt from the tests, according to Gupta. It’s not clear how the change will affect media outlets’ pages and reach.

Several weeks ago, Epoch Times staff noticed that Facebook appears to have been reducing the reach on its posts. The Epoch Times has reached out to the company for comment. More than a year ago, Facebook banned The Epoch Times and its related pages from advertising and suspended the use of its Instant Articles feature.

“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 in the post.

During the tests, Facebook said it will “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” and added that “COVID-19 information from authoritative health organizations” will not be affected, said Gupta. Meanwhile, “content from official government agencies and services will also be exempt,” the post said.

Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Amazon have all come under fire in recent months for what appears to be a coordinated attempt to stifle conservative voices and other viewpoints outside the mainstream. It’s prompted elected officials, including former President Donald Trump, to suggest revoking Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act that essentially serves as a liability shield.

According to a report from Forbes, the Department of Justice cited Facebook the most often among social media outlets in charging documents against alleged rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Citing the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University, Forbes said that Facebook was mentioned 73 times, YouTube was mentioned 24 times, Facebook-owned Instagram was mentioned 20 times, and alt-social media website Parler was only mentioned eight times.