Facebook Dials Down the Politics for Users

click to enlarge Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. - PETE MAROVICH/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Pete Marovich/The New York Times
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019.

By Kevin Roose and Mike Isaac
The New York Times

After inflaming political discourse around the globe, Facebook is trying to turn down the temperature.

The social network announced Wednesday that it had started changing its algorithm to reduce the political content in users’ news feeds. The less political feed will be tested on a fraction of Facebook’s users in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia beginning this week and will be expanded to the United States in the coming weeks, the company said. “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,” Aastha Gupta, a Facebook product management director, wrote in a blog post announcing the test.


Facebook previewed the change last month when Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, said the company was experimenting with ways to tamp down divisive political debates among users.

“One of the top pieces of feedback 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,” he said.
Political stories won’t disappear from users’ feeds altogether. Content from official government agencies and services will be exempt from the algorithm change, Facebook said, as will information about COVID-19 from organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Last month, Zuckerberg said users would also still be able to discuss politics inside private groups.

“They can be ways that people organize grassroots movements, speak out against injustice or learn from people with different perspectives, so we want these discussions to be able to keep happening,” Zuckerberg said.
Facebook has been under fire from lawmakers from both parties. Liberals have blamed the company for allowing hate speech and misinformation to spread, while conservatives have claimed that they were censored.
Making Facebook less political could satisfy critics who blame it for increasing partisan polarization. But the move could also cut into the time that users spend on the app.

Data released by Facebook last fall showed that during one week in October, seven of the 10 most-engaged pages were primarily political, including those of President Donald Trump, Fox News, Breitbart and Occupy Democrats.

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13
  • or