What’s happening: Facebook has resolved to reduce the number of political posts and content that appear on their users’ news feed.
Why? Earlier this year, in February, the social media platform began running tests. They had received the same type of feedback: people wanted less and less political content on their news feed. Facebook wanted to test out how their users felt about this type of content, and how they’d feel if it was reduced.
At that time, the US was still dealing with the aftermath of their national elections: think pieces on Trump and Biden were flying over the place, and the mob attack on the Capitol was still fresh.
In Brazil, there were conversations on President Jair Bolsonaro’s intent with the military. In Africa, Uganda too had just completed its national elections and social media was awry with President Yoweri Museveni’s internet shutdown decision. Nigeria itself was still struggling to deal with the aftereffects of its #EndSARS protests.
Everyone had something to say about politics, and no one was ready to listen.
So what did Facebook do? They started small.
They temporarily reduced the distribution of political content for a small percentage of people in Brazil, Indonesia, US, and Canada. They ran surveys on how those people felt about the reduction and ran more tests to explore how content could be ranked on News Feed.
While their tests revealed that political content makes up only 6% of what people see on Facebook in the US, they realized that that small percentage was enough to affect mood and overall app experience for the rest of the day.
While I think the stats would be higher in certain countries, I’d wager that the feeling is mutual. Political conversations are universally difficult.
Facebook is not deleting posts or anything, they’re just deemphasizing how much political news content appears on News Feed.
How will African countries fare?
As of now, it seems African countries are still exempt. Facebook is expanding its test to Costa Rica, Spain, Sweden, and Ireland but they plan to expand further later.
I think it’ll be intriguing to see how this will affect political conversations across the continent, considering how African governments have reacted to social media regulations over the past year i.e. The Ethiopian government planning to develop their own social media platform after Facebook deleted their posts, and the Nigerian government banning Twitter after the President’s tweet was deleted.