Facebook has outlined its plan to reduce politics on people’s feeds. The giant social media company seems very determined to cap users utilizing its platform to drive politics.
Due to the rampant use of online and virtual entities across the globe, politicians were too quick to absorb modern technology in propagating their political ideologies. In 2020, Facebook was marred with live political rallies and religious sermons from popular leaders and pastors addressing their followers. This means that there was an influx of information on users’ feeds, which was happening quickly. Even the officials reported a surge in people signing up on the social media platform, increasing usage.
2020 witnessed one of the most heated US elections between former US President Donald Trump and US President Joe Biden. During these historic polls, online platforms were key in amassing voters for these two candidates. Both leaders had acquired a lot of followers on Facebook and Twitter and treated their accounts as the mouthpiece for campaigning.
After being disappointed by the outcome of the elections results, Trump went on a wild rant communicating with his followers on his social media handles. He convinced them that the election had been stolen from him and caused intense havoc online. Facebook and Twitter were forced to ban him from using their platforms. Facebook’s devised a new mechanism to curb anyone from abusing their social media entity and propel political agenda.
Nick Clegg, the former UK deputy prime minister who is now vice president for global affairs and communications at Facebook, gave an insight into the strategy. According to Clegg, their users wanted to see “more friends, less politics.” Former Facebook employee and whistle-blower Frances Haugen despised the company as it “internationally hides vital information from the public” and “buys its profits with our safety.” He laid these allegations after Facebook had lifted restrictive measures which were placed during the elections. It had seemed like the tech company wanted to “shut off” certain persons but eventually opened the floodgates soon after the polls.
However, vice president Clegg was apologetic about his company’s decision to remove the measures and noted how they were “now going further” in reducing politics on people’s feeds. “It’s simply not true to say we lifted those measures immediately – in fact, we kept the vast majority right through to the inauguration. And we kept some in place permanently – so we permanently don’t recommend civic and political groups to people.”
In his apologetic stance, he stated that “But it’s worth remembering what those measures are like closing all the highways in a town because a temporary one-off problem in one neighborhood – you don’t do that permanently.”
He explained that “One of the things we have heard from users both from the US and worldwide since the election is that people want to see more friends, less politics. So we have been testing ways in which we can reduce the presence of politics for people’s Facebook experiences.”
Facebook officials’ success of these new methods was revealed with only 0,05% being recorded for hate speech, and “that means for every 10 000 bits of content you’ll see on Facebook, only five will be hate speech”. In August, these strategies were tested in four countries: Costa Rica, Sweden, Spain, and Ireland [Source]. To carry out the process, Facebook was going to change the signals it favors when promoting content. Product management director Aastha Gupta noted that “Some engagement signals can better indicate what posts people find more valuable than others.” Gupta added that “Based on that feedback, we’re gradually expanding some tests to put less emphasis on signals such as how likely someone is to comment on or share political content.”
“If someone keeps saying things that lead to real-world harm, we kick them off. We do that on a very significant scale than any other part of the industry. We bear down very aggressively on hate speech in recent years – we employ 40 000 people now to do this work – more than twice the number of staffers who work on Capitol Hill” .
Given this information, Facebook management is prepared to lose users while pushing for zero hate speech on their social media platform and reducing political content posted.