With Facebook, now known as Meta, already severely curtailing the potency of political content, the company announced on Friday that it will stop proactively recommending political content on its sister platform Instagram and its new text-based app Threads.
The news set shockwaves through the political desks of media companies and content creators who focus on politics.
But the new policy, which many critics called vague, left a slew of questions about the definition of political content. For instance, is content about the LGBTQ community considered political in this divisive environment? What about Black history? Women’s rights? Green M&Ms? Bud Light beer?
Would content about Taylor Swift, now seen as an adversary by Fox News and right-wing voices, suddenly be considered political because others have defined her as such?
“If I post about LGBTQ rights, or about being a gay man, is that political?” asked Ashton Pittman, news editor at the Mississippi Free Press, an online nonprofit based in Jackson, Miss. “If I post about Taylor Swift, is that political because bad actors are making everything political?
“Everything is political if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s just about who’s defining what’s political and who gets to define that and what does it mean?
Others criticized the move because while it limits political misinformation, it also curtails normal political discussion based in fact.
Keith Edwards, a Democratic political strategist and content creator, told the Washington Post that the changes are likely to have political consequences.
“[Meta] is trying to turn the world apolitical, which only helps authoritarian movements, at a time when authoritarian movements are on the rise in Western democracies,” he said.
Swift and her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who is playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers, have been painted as liberals by the right wing. Swift has encouraged people to vote, and Kelce has made commercials advocating for Covid vaccines and boosters.
More and more, Meta has increasingly backed away from highlighting news and politics to users as the social media company has faced criticism for how it failure to police misinformation and extremism.
Shortly after Meta launched Threads, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the company would not “encourage” politics and “hard news.” He said the increases in readership from that content was not “worth the scrutiny [and] negativity …”
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