Facebook to halt civic and political groups recommendations

Facebook to halt civic and political groups recommendations
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Social media giant Facebook has announced that it will stop giving users recommendations to join civic and political groups.

The decision by Facebook to halt its civic and political groups recommendations is part of its initiative to limit the number of political posts in users’ feeds. Initially, the social media firm began suppressing such content on the run up to the election.

The latest update makes this policy permanent for the platform globally.

Limiting political content

The announcement was made by Facebook chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg. He said: “People don’t want politics and fighting to take over.” In 2020, more than one million groups were banned by the firm.

The company has yet to specify what groups are considered “civic groups” and how the policy change could impact grassroots campaigning.

Facebook’s decision comes after months of criticism over the spread of misinformation on the social media platform. Zuckerberg emphasized that Facebook wants “to make sure the communities people connect with are healthy and positive”.

“There are also a lot of groups that we may not want to encourage people to join, even if they don’t violate our policies. Now, we plan to keep civic and political groups out of recommendations for the long term,” he added.

The Facebook CEO pointed out that the initiative was “a continuation of work we’ve been doing for a while to turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations and communities”.

However, Zuckerberg emphasized that he wants Facebook groups to continue to be used for legitimate community organizing and grassroots campaigns.

“But 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.

Cleaning up the platform

Last year, Facebook took down over 150 fake accounts run from China on its platform, which includes those posting about the US presidential election.

While Facebook said this was a small operation, it was the first time the firm publicly divulged details of an operation it discovered to be run from China, with accounts posting about the US 2020 election.

Facebook’s head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher said the accounts they found “posted content both in support of and against presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden and Donald Trump.”

The company hired social media analytics firm Graphika to examine the network of accounts.

In its report, Graphika wrote: “In 2019-2020, the operation began running accounts that posed as Americans and posted a small amount of content about the US presidential election. Different assets supported President Donald Trump and his rival Joe Biden; one short-lived group supported former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.”

In October, it banned several types of political ads, including those that prematurely declare winners in the election as well as those that seek to “delegitimize any lawful method or process of voting”.

This month, Facebook blocked former US President Donald Trump from posting on its platforms following attacks of his supporters on the US Capitol. In a blog post, Zuckerberg said Facebook and Instagram will ban Trump from posting for at least the remainder of his term in office.

Zuckerberg said: “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

A new Oversight Board will decide on the account suspension of Trump from Facebook.