Instagram, Threads Users to See Less Politics: Here’s Why

Instagram and Threads, both owned by Meta, are set to make significant changes to how political content is recommended to users. Announced in a recent blog post, Meta is expanding its policy to limit political content from accounts that users do not follow from appearing in recommended feeds on both Instagram and Threads. This policy, previously applied to Reels, aims to respect individual preferences regarding political content while still allowing for engagement with such material for those who choose.

Why Limit Political Content on Instagram and Threads?

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, announcing on Threads the company’s intention to balance the provision of political content with users’ varying appetites for it. This update will be phased in over the coming weeks, with a similar update expected for Facebook at a later, yet-to-be-disclosed date. Users interested in having political content recommended to them—a category encompassing discussions on governments, elections, or societal issues—will have the option to disable this limitation within their account settings. The changes will only affect public accounts in recommended content areas like Explore, Reels, and suggested users, not altering the content flow from accounts users actively follow.

Here’s a preview of the potential filtering options in Instagram, which may undergo further adjustments before its official launch. Image: Meta

How Will the Changes Affect Content Creators?

For Content Creators:

  • Eligibility for Recommendations: Accounts that are not eligible will not have any content recommended, even if it meets recommendation guidelines.
  • Tools for Professional Accounts: Upon implementation, professionals can:
    • Use tools to check if political content affects their recommendation eligibility.
    • Appeal or adjust their content to regain or maintain eligibility.

Meta’s Strategy to Reduce Political Content Visibility

Meta’s initiative to change the visibility of political content on its platforms is part of a broader effort to recalibrate its relationship with news and political discourse, amidst ongoing critiques over its role in spreading misinformation and fostering societal divisions. A revealing statistic from 2022 showed that political content constituted a mere fraction—less than 3%—of content in U.S. users’ feeds on Facebook. This strategic distancing from political content, as articulated by Mosseri, underscores a deliberate move to mitigate the platforms’ exposure to the potential backlash and negative scrutiny that often accompany political discussions, a consideration of particular importance as the 2024 presidential election approaches/

How Is Meta Tackling Misinformation and Political Advertising?

In this climate of heightened awareness about the role of social media in politics, Meta has been proactive in implementing safeguards against the spread of misinformation and extremism, including transparency requirements for politically altered advertisements. This latest update to not “proactively recommend” political content from unfamiliar accounts underscores a broader strategy to prioritize user experience and content diversity over political engagement.

This policy adjustment does not preclude users from following accounts that post political content; it merely changes how such content might be recommended to them. Mosseri emphasized the company’s goal to allow personal choice in engaging with political content while respecting each user’s preference level. This approach marks a significant shift in how Meta platforms will handle political content, prioritizing creators and viral moments over news and politics in an effort to curate a more personalized and less politically charged user experience.

Navigating the Balance: User Experience vs. Political Engagement

Meta’s latest policy updates are reflective of a broader challenge facing social media entities: the delicate act of balancing the distribution of political content with the imperative of ensuring a positive and engaging user experience. This endeavor mirrors a larger trend within social media governance, grappling with the intricate balance between safeguarding free expression, curbing misinformation, and optimizing user satisfaction. As these policy changes take effect, their impact on the digital political landscape and societal discourse will be closely monitored, offering insights into the evolving role of social media platforms in shaping public opinion and political engagement.

In conclusion, Meta’s strategic pivot reflects a nuanced understanding of the complex dynamics at play within the digital ecosystem, aiming to foster a more inclusive, engaging, and positive social media experience. As these changes unfold, they promise to reshape the contours of digital discourse, highlighting the ongoing evolution of social media’s role in the intersection of technology, politics, and society.

Featured image was created with the assistance of DALL·E by ChatGPT

Huey Yee Ong

A creative enthusiast who enjoys art, baking, and sports, delivering insightful reporting with a fresh and unique perspective.