Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced that it will stop recommending political content on its platforms, sparking criticism from news and politics creators who rely on its algorithms to reach audiences. Meta said the decision was based on user feedback, but some creators accused the company of avoiding accountability and responsibility for its role in shaping public discourse.
Meta’s New Policy on Political Content Recommendations
Meta revealed on Friday that it will no longer proactively suggest political content on Instagram or its text-based app Threads, affecting accounts and posts that focus on laws, elections, or social issues. Users will still be able to follow and see such content from accounts they already follow, but they will not see it on Instagram’s Explore page, Reels, or suggested accounts. Meta also said it will not show political content from accounts that users do not follow on Threads.
Meta said the policy change was based on what users have told the company they wanted, and that it was part of its ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of misinformation and divisive content on its platforms. Meta also said it will develop tools to allow users to opt in to see more political content if they choose to, but those tools are not yet available.
Meta spokesperson Dani Lever said in a statement: “This announcement expands on years of work on how we approach and treat political content based on what people have told us they wanted.”
Meta’s Criticism from News and Politics Creators
Meta’s announcement was met with backlash from news and politics creators, who depend on Meta’s platforms to reach and engage with their audiences, especially during an important election year. Some creators said Meta was trying to avoid scrutiny and regulation for its role in influencing public opinion and democracy, and that it was harming the quality and diversity of information available to users.
Keith Edwards, a Democratic political strategist and content creator, said he regretted promoting Threads to the White House and other political figures, as he believed the app was a good alternative to X, which had banned some progressive activists and journalists. He said Meta’s policy change would make it harder for political messages to reach ordinary people who need to hear them.
“The whole value-add for social media, for political people, is that you can reach normal people who might not otherwise hear a message that they need to hear, like, abortion is on the ballot in Florida, or voting is happening today,” he said. “There’s TV ads, but who watches TV anymore? Most people are on their phones, and Meta apps are where most people hang out.”
Taylor Lorenz, a technology reporter for The New York Times, said Meta’s decision was “a huge blow to news and politics-focused creators and journalists” who have built their careers and businesses on Instagram. She said Meta was “turning its back on politics again” after previously reducing the visibility of political content on Facebook’s News Feed.
“Meta is essentially saying they don’t want to deal with the responsibility of being a platform that shapes public discourse and opinion,” she said. “They want to be a platform for entertainment and shopping, not for news and information.”
Meta’s Challenges and Opportunities in Dealing with Political Content
Meta’s policy change reflects the challenges and opportunities that the company faces in dealing with political content on its platforms, which have been under fire for their role in spreading misinformation, hate speech, and extremism. Meta has been accused of failing to prevent foreign interference, inciting violence, and polarizing society through its algorithms and content moderation practices.
Meta has also been facing increasing pressure and regulation from governments and lawmakers around the world, who have demanded more transparency and accountability from the company. Meta has been fined, sued, and investigated for various issues, such as privacy, antitrust, and content moderation. Meta has also faced boycotts and protests from users, advertisers, and civil society groups, who have called for the company to do more to protect human rights and democracy.
Meta has also been trying to diversify and expand its business and products, beyond its core social media platforms. Meta has been investing in new areas, such as virtual and augmented reality, e-commerce, and cryptocurrency, which could offer new sources of revenue and growth. Meta has also been rebranding itself as a “metaverse” company, which aims to create a digital world where people can interact and create in immersive ways.
Meta has the potential and opportunity to become a leading and innovative player in the digital space, with its vast user base, resources, and vision. Meta also has the responsibility and challenge to balance its business interests and social impacts, and to ensure that its platforms are safe, trustworthy, and beneficial for its users and society.