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Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Image

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

Details: Moving forward, Facebook will expand some of its current News Feed tests that put less emphasis on certain engagement signals, like the probability that a user will share or comment on a post, in its ranking algorithm.

  • Instead, it will begin placing a higher emphasis on other types of user feedback, like responses to surveys.
  • The company will also begin testing efforts to limit political content in several new countries, including Costa Rica, Sweden, Spain, and Ireland.  

Between the lines: These efforts are part of a gradual effort by Facebook to make its users' experiences less political and contentious.

  • Earlier this year, the company began testing limiting political content in News Feeds in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Indonesia. In January, it said it would stop providing recommendations for users to join civic and political groups.
  • User feedback showed people liked these changes.

The big picture: Following the 2020 election, Facebook tried to limit the amount of political content users interact with on its platform, but it is still regularly criticized over the amount of political misinformation it distributes.

  • Current events and breaking news content is most likely to be exploited by bad actors for misinformation, because stories on breaking news events are difficult to fact-check as they unfold.
  • Facebook has said that political topics only account for a small amount (6%) of the overall content that users engage with, although it's unclear exactly how the company defines political content.

What to watch: Facebook plans to roll out these changes gradually, so as not to catch too many political and news publishers off guard. It's likely that it will expand its tests over time to more countries.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Oversight Board calls for more Facebook transparency

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Facebook Oversight Board on Tuesday called on the social media giant to "commit to transparency" in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report last week that millions of high-profile users get special treatment by content moderators.

Why it matters: Although initially funded by Facebook, the Oversight Board operates independently as a kind of Supreme Court for the platform. The company has agreed to obey its rulings on specific content disputes, but the board's broader policy advice is strictly on a "recommendation" basis.

Sep 21, 2021 - Technology

Scoop: More boycotts coming for Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Leaders of the Stop Hate For Profit social media boycott group are discussing whether to organize another campaign against Facebook in light of an explosive investigative series from the Wall Street Journal, Common Sense CEO Jim Steyer tells Axios.

The intrigue: Sources tell Axios that another group, separate from the Stop Hate For Profit organization, is expected to launch its own ad boycott campaign this week.

Youth gaming platform Roblox rolls out new age verification system

Image: Roblox

Roblox is rolling out an age verification system starting Tuesday that involves a lot more than asking users to click a birthdate from a dropdown menu and really, please, don’t lie.

Why it matters: Roblox is promoting this as a way to safely roll out new features like voice chat, which will only be offered to users 13 and older.