Meta faces backlash from Instagram users over new political content limitation feature

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Mar 26, 2024 at 03:31 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Meta is doing the absolute most to try and convince users that it’s totally non-biased and politically apathetic. In a move that’s surprised absolutely no one, the tech company has announced that Instagram users would see less of what it deems “political” content unless they opt in for it. Meta’s brainchildren, Facebook and Instagram, have been equally criticised over the years for their impact on both information censorship and political polarisation. So, it begs the question: is Meta finally saying an official goodbye to news content on its platforms?

According to The Guardian, the change requires users to delve into their settings to specifically opt into political content through their preferences. It affects the Explore, Reels, and in-feed recommendations and suggested users that Instagram shows to other users.

Meta has stressed that users will continue to see political content from the accounts they already follow. This setting also applies to anyone using Threads… So, no one.

Moreover, Meta has described what it deems to be political content as “laws, elections or social topics” but has not yet provided more specific information as to what is political. Immediately, given the platform’s past, this rings some serious alarm bells.

Since the new change has launched, numerous netizens have taken to X, formerly Twitter, to complain about the move:

https://twitter.com/QuiltyEXP/status/1771263903168651522

Only recently, Meta’s policies were highly criticised by Human Rights activists after netizens found that content supporting Palestine and the Palestinian people was being suppressed across the app. A report in December 2023 from Human Rights Watch revealed that between October and November of that year, there were a documented 1,050 takedowns and other suppression of content on Instagram and Facebook that had been posted by Palestinians and their supporters, including about human rights abuses.

The report also found that the posts’ suppression could not have correlated with content violations as, of the 1,050 cases reviewed, 1,049 involved peaceful content in support of Palestine.

Meta’s top officials have made it plain that politics doesn’t have a place on Instagram—a concept that’s both widely naive and also incredibly classist. Social media is one of the only ways a lot of people can access political news and broaden their perspectives. However, for the boss of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, it’s evident he’d much rather netizens simply doom scroll over the latest coquette fashion trend.

In a Threads post from his personal account in 2023, Mosseri wrote: “Politics and hard news are important, I don’t want to imply otherwise. But my take is, from a platform’s perspective, any incremental engagement or revenue they might drive is not at all worth the scrutiny, negativity (let’s be honest), or integrity risks that come along with them.”

“There are more than enough amazing communities—sports, music, fashion, beauty, entertainment, etc—to make a vibrant platform without needing to get into politics or hard news,” the businessman continued.

With both a UK general election and the US presidential election around the corner, it’s likely that we’ll see a lot more discourse regarding Meta’s decision to try and stamp out politics from its platforms. Will this move help eradicate misinformation, or will it simply work to silence voices across the political spectrum?

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