Facebook will stop recommending political and civic groups to its users in a bid to “turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations“, the company has vowed.
Speaking to analysts following Facebook’s financial results, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the policy would be made permanent and apply globally after it paused recommending the groups in the US prior to the Presidential election in November.
“We’re continuing to fine-tune how this works, but now we plan to keep civic and political groups out of recommendations for the long term, and we plan to expand that policy globally,” he said.
“This is a continuation of work we’ve been doing for a while to turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations.”
Platforms used to call for insurrection
While Facebook and fellow social media giants Twitter and YouTube have been roundly criticised for their roles in hosting, perpetuating and failing to curb the spread of conspiracy theories and other false claims in recent years, the companies have come under heightened scrutiny since former President Donald Trump used the platforms to call for violence at the US Capitol on 6 January.
Twitter has since permanently banned Mr Trump from using its services, while he is suspended indefinitely from using Facebook, its sister company Instagram, YouTube and other social platforms.
The social network is currently mulling over the best way to reduce the overall amount of political content users see in their News Feeds, Mr Zuckerberg explained, adding he felt there was a current trend for politicising “a lot of things” but that civic and political posts and conversations constituted a “pretty small minority” of the site’s content.
“Politics has a way of creeping into everything,” he said.
“One of the top pieces of feedback that we’re hearing from our community right now is that people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services”.
US users still recommended political groups
A report from site The Markup demonstrated that users in the US were still being recommended political groups through the company’s algorithms as recently as this month, despite its supposed suspension.
Democratic senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts wrote to Mr Zuckerberg earlier this week demanding an explanation, saying the findings “cast serious doubt on Facebook’s compliance with the promises you have publicly made to me and to your users”.
“Facebook must explain the apparent discrepancy between its promises to stop recommending political groups and what it has delivered,” Mr Markey wrote.
“Facebook’s system of recommending political groups poses grave threats to American democracy and public safety.”