Less political content to be displayed on Meta platforms

Meta will reduce the political content people experience on Threads and Instagram.

Meta will reduce the political content people experience on Threads and Instagram. Photo: AAP

People will see less politics on their Threads and Instagram feeds soon, but it has raised concerns about how the changes will be implemented.

Meta announced last week the company will no longer “proactively amplify political content from accounts you don’t follow” and avoid recommending it to people’s social media feeds.

“If you want political recommendations, you will have a control to opt into getting them,” Adam Mosseri, the executive in charge of Instagram and Threads, said in a blog post.

“Our goal is to preserve the ability for people to choose to interact with political content, while respecting each person’s appetite for it.”

No big surprise

Cameron McTernan, a lecturer specialising in social media, political communication and media industries at the University of South Australia, said Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and Threads, has been moving away from politics and news since 2017.

“They don’t want to be seen as a publisher of the news. They don’t want to be seen as a media company,” he said.

“They want to be seen as a technology company.”

He said when the company has been involved in the two in the past, it has resulted in founder Mark Zuckerberg appearing before Congress in the US.

“The outcome of the 2016 US election and Brexit, in particular, scared them into going ‘This isn’t a path we want to go down’,” McTernan said.

“They decided we want to put the focus on people, content and communities rather than being a vehicle for news and politics.”

facebook ceo Mark zuckerberg

The social media mogul has faced hearings over Facebook’s practices. Photo: Getty

When Meta announced Threads wouldn’t amplify news, it came as a shock because the platform was seen as an alternative to Twitter.

McTernan said he thinks it is unlikely Elon Musk will follow a similar pattern with X and it may embolden him to promote controversial content.

“It gives Elon Musk greater opportunity for product diversification,” he said.

“They’re going to have a field day with this by saying you can come to me for controversy if you want.”

What is political content?

Dr Jonathon Hutchinson, chair of discipline, media and communication at the University of Sydney, said the crux of the issue is what is defined as political content.

“Is it an editorial board at Facebook saying that it is, or the content creator themselves nominating their work as political?” he said.

“The definition is quite fluid and one person’s political content may be completely different from another person’s.”

He said it is important that there is a “healthy public content diet that these sorts of manoeuvres put into question”.

“They really do have a significant role to play in the kinds of content we see shown on our social media feeds,” Hutchinson said.

“By restricting what they call political content, does the audience comprehend what they mean when they’re opting in or out?”

Meta’s blog post didn’t detail what exactly will be defined as political content, but McTernan said it may create a situation where political campaigns are forced to pay to spread their message.

“There’s 1.4 billion on Instagram, politicians and campaigners are going to want to have access to that audience and there are definitely people with the budget that are willing to pay for it,” he said.

“It may come in the form of using influencers to spread the message.”

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