TOPLINE Facebook will no longer recommend political groups to users, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday, amid criticism for how the platform was used by pro-Trump extremists to plan the attack on the Capitol earlier this month.
Facebook had already halted political and social issue group recommendations leading up to the November election last year, but Zuckerberg said on an earnings call Wednesday that the change will become permanent.
The move is significant because private Facebook groups are rife with misinformation and conspiracy theories, researchers say, with some involved in the planning of the Capitol riots, according to a report from the Tech Transparency Project.
The ban comes the day after Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote a scathing letter to Zuckerberg saying, “Facebook’s system of recommending political groups poses grave threats to American democracy and public safety.”
Critics have long pressured Facebook to crack down on calls for violence, hate speech and misinformation. They argue Facebook is a cesspool of extreme views, and can play a role in radicalizing normal users. At least in part recognizing Facebook’s divisiveness, Zuckerberg also said Wednesday the social network plans to reduce the amount of political content people see in their feeds. “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.
Facebook’s revenue and profit grew in 2020, despite a looming antitrust investigation, privacy mishaps and scrutiny over content moderation. But the company warned in its fourth-quarter earnings report that it would face significant obstacles this year as Apple plans to make it harder for Facebook to track iOS users.
Facebook already stopped recommending health-related groups in September to address coronavirus and other health misinformation.
By Rachel Sandler, Forbes Staff