Facebook Inc said Wednesday that it is beginning to remove recommendations it gives to global users for Facebook groups on political and social issues, a move it has announced to reduce tension on the site.
The company also announced in a blog post changes aimed at reducing the reach of groups that break the site’s rules, including displaying them with lower algorithmic recommendations and alerting people when they join a group that has violated the policies. previously.
Researchers and civil rights organizations have long warned that Facebook groups, a product the company has vigorously promoted as places for people with common interests, such as sports or music, have also been used to spread misinformation and organize extremist activities. .
In an interview Tuesday, Tom Alison, Facebook’s vice president of engineering, said Facebook was aggressively investing in groups.
He said changes to political and civic group recommendations, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in an earnings call in January, were due to users wanting to see less political content.
“They want us to lower the temperature a little,” Alison said.
He said newly created groups on any topic would have to wait 21 days before being eligible for recommendation in order to give Facebook time to understand how a group would function.
Since 2017, Facebook has made groups a strategic priority, and Zuckerberg credits the role as a way to foster “meaningful connections.” Last year, he stepped up the promotion of groups in news sources and search engine results.
But during the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook stopped recommending health groups to users, saying they needed authoritative sources of information. He has also cracked down on certain groups in recent months as part of policy changes to curb “militarized social movements.”
In the months leading up to the US elections and the Jan.6 assault on the Capitol, Facebook groups were abuzz with disinformation and violent rhetoric. The “Stop the Steal” groups grew rapidly despite the pauses in recommendations.
Facebook said Wednesday that it would require group moderators to temporarily approve posts for groups with a “substantial” number of members breaking the rules or members who were part of other groups removed for rule violations.
It also said it would show the content of groups that break the rules lower in the members’ feed and temporarily prevent repeating members who break the rules from posting or creating new groups.
Facebook’s Alison declined to say what criteria would determine when a group that breaks the rules or its members will be removed from the platform.