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Facebook experiments with reducing News Feed political content for some

Engadget logo Engadget 2/10/2021 Devindra Hardawar
A smartphone user shows the Facebook application on his phone in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, in this photo illustration, May 2, 2013.  Facebook Inc's mobile advertising revenue growth gained momentum in the first three months of the year as the social network sold more ads to users on smartphones and tablets, partially offsetting higher spending which weighed on profits. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - Tags: SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS) A smartphone user shows the Facebook application on his phone in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, in this photo illustration, May 2, 2013. Facebook Inc's mobile advertising revenue growth gained momentum in the first three months of the year as the social network sold more ads to users on smartphones and tablets, partially offsetting higher spending which weighed on profits. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - Tags: SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS)

Facebook is taking a new approach to political content: Showing less of it. The company announced today that it will experiment with reducing News Feed entries about politics for a small portion of users in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia this week, and in the US in the coming weeks. Facebook Product Management Director Aastha Gupta says the company will explore ways of ranking political content in the News Feed, but also made it clear that this test won’t affect content from official government agencies, health agencies and COVID-19 information from trusted health organizations like the CDC and WHO.

In November, Facebook said political content made up around 6 percent of the content people typically see on the service. But that data came after the New York Times’ Kevin Roose started using data from Facebook’s CrowdTangle analytics platform to show the top performing links on the social network. For the most part, they were from news organizations, with a heavy emphasis on conservative voices.

“It’s important to note that we’re not removing political content from Facebook altogether,” Gupta said in the blog post. “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.” She also notes that the company will survey users about their experience after having their political content reduced.

Facebook’s announcement follows a series of more aggressive content moderation moves. Earlier this week, the company said it would finally ban COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. It also removed fake accounts in Uganda and Palestine from networks that were attempting to influence local elections.

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