Facebook to Permanently Stop Recommending Political Groups

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Facebook to Permanently Stop Recommending Political Groups

The social media giant is working overtime to clamp down on extremist content.

In the wake of the U.S. Capitol insurrection on January 6, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that his company will no longer recommend civic and political groups to its billions of users worldwide.

“This is a continuation of work we’ve been doing for a while to turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations,” Zuckerberg said in a call with analysts after announcing the company’s fourth-quarter earnings.

He added that the social-media giant will also consider necessary steps to curb the overall amount of politics-related content that users see in their News Feed.

“One of the top pieces of feedback that 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,” Zuckerberg said.

On Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook linked Facebook’s business model, which has long tapped into data to serve targeted ads, with real-world violence and public distrust in coronavirus vaccines.

“If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, it does not deserve our praise. It deserves scorn,” he said in a speech at a data privacy conference in Brussels.

He also criticized recommendation algorithms that can suggest certain extremist groups to Facebook’s users, adding that he believes that some companies, in an effort to boost engagement, reward content that undermine trust in public health initiatives like the current mass vaccination campaigns.

“At a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good and the longer the better,” Cook said.

Last month, Facebook announced that it would start removing posts that contain false claims about vaccines. It had previously made it more difficult to see vaccine misinformation by “downranking” it, which makes it less visible in news feeds.

But now, such posts will be taken down entirely if the claims had been discredited or contradicted by reputable health agencies like the World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Given the recent news that COVID-19 vaccines will soon be rolling out around the world, over the coming weeks we will start removing false claims about these vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts on Facebook and Instagram,” the company said in a blog post.

“This is another way that we are applying our policy to remove misinformation about the virus that could lead to imminent physical harm. This could include false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines. For example, we will remove false claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips, or anything else that isn’t on the official vaccine ingredient list.”

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters.