Meta announced on Friday that it will proactively stop recommending political content on Instagram or its new text app Threads, and news of concern, politically focused creators and journalists are bracing for a crucial election year.
Meta will not recommend political posts on Instagram and Threads
by aparodyoflife ·
The company said it will also not show users posts focused on laws, elections or social issues from accounts those users do not follow.
Meta spokesman Danny Lever said: “This announcement extends years of work on how we handle and treat political content based on what people have told us they want.”
Users will still be able to see politics-related posts in their main feeds from accounts they follow, Meta said. But the new approach means users are less likely to see politically oriented content or accounts on Instagram’s Explore page, its short-form video product known as Reels, and the suggested users to follow box. Meta will also not recommend policy for users’ feeds in topics. Meta said it plans to develop tools that would allow users to choose to see more political content, but such tools are not available.
Keith Edwards, a Democratic political strategist and content creator, said he met with the White House twice recently and urged officials there to join Threads, but now regrets the effort he put into the platform.
“The whole added value of social media, and for politicians, is that you can reach everyday people who might not hear a message that they need to hear, like that abortion is on the ballot in Florida, or that voting is happening today,” he said. “There are TV ads, but who watches TV anymore? Most people are on their phones, and Meta apps are where most people spend their time.”
The change angered some news creators and politicians, many of whom turned to Instagram’s Threads app after their X accounts were affected by Elon Musk, who removed their blue verification ticks and banned some progressive activists and journalists from the site.
Meta launched Threads last summer as an alternative to X. The service quickly grew by allowing users to easily import and follow their social connections from Instagram, and has been adopted by many high-profile journalists, celebrities, and content creators.
In recent years, Meta has increasingly backed away from displaying news and politics to users as the social media giant has faced criticism for how it polices misinformation, controversial ideas and extremism. Shortly after Meta launched Threads, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, posted that the company would no longer “encourage” politics and “difficult news” on the platform. He said increases in engaged readers from such a promotion are “absolutely not worth the scrutiny, negativity (let’s be honest) or integrity risks that come with it.”
Sari Beth Rosenberg, a podcaster in New York, said she moved to Threads after feeling unable to connect with her audience on Twitter after Musk took over. “As hesitant as I was about Meta now taking control of Threads, I’d give it a chance. …But what they’re doing is punishing and limiting very crucial conversations about policy in the most important election of our time.”
Rosenberg said she has used her platform to educate people about public health and the coronavirus pandemic, but given the changes Meta has made, she now worries that if she mentions those topics her access will be restricted.
Ina Da, a Brooklyn-based content creator, said Meta’s policy was too vague, and the language around social issues concerned her. “Some people’s entire existence and views will be viewed as political, like me as a black woman,” she said. “This will silence a lot of marginalized people.”
Isaias Hernandez, a Gen Z creator who posts about environmental protection, said the change could lead to voters being less educated during major elections. “Climate policy is a big factor for a lot of young people who vote,” he said. “I think we will lose a large portion of the electorate if we cannot disseminate climate information.”
Edwards, the political strategist, said the changes are likely to have political consequences. He said: “(Meta) is trying to turn the world into a non-political zone, which only helps authoritarian movements, at a time when authoritarian movements are on the rise in Western democracies.”
Emily Amick, who has 133,000 Instagram followers, said the changes would likely have less impact on conservative creators. She said many big right-wing content creators are experts at evading restrictions by not posting openly about politics.
“There’s a lot of money behind right-wing influencers, it’s a really powerful ecosystem that’s built for success online today, and these changes will help them even more,” she said. She said she’s already noticed her views on posts drop when she talks about politically charged topics like abortion and guns.
“The right has actively developed content that leverages visual-based social media aesthetics, especially through commercial influencers,” she said. They create content that does not appear overtly political, even though it has profound political implications. “Traditional Wife” is short for “traditional wife” and refers to influencers who create content around homemaking and often weave conservative messages into their content.
The changes could also negatively impact his publications, said Ashton Pittman, news editor at Mississippi Free Press, an online nonprofit based in Jackson, Mississippi. Pittman said he relies on social media recommendations to grow the outlet’s readership. “If you don’t get local news, democracy will suffer,” he said. “If social media companies are hiding local (political) news from you, you will be less informed, and the place you live will be worse off.”
Professional accounts on Instagram that have recently posted political content can check their eligibility for recommendation under the account status, Meta said. From there, they can edit or remove any recent political posts or appeal the company’s decision to restrict their account and content from recommendations.
When restricting content, “we don’t talk about all the news, we focus more on political news or social commentary,” Mosseri said on Friday.
“The scary thing about it is what is political?” Edwards said. “Bud Light wasn’t political until it was. The green M&M wasn’t political until Tucker Carlson made it political.
“If I post about LGBTQ rights, or about being a gay man, is that political?” asked Pittman, editor of Mississippi. “If I post about Taylor Swift, is that political because bad actors make everything political? Everything is political if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s just a matter of who defines what is political and who can define that and what does that mean?”