Meta doesn't want its new app Threads to become another Twitter, with heated political debates and the resulting toxicity. In an announcement today, the company explained how it recommends political content on both Instagram and its sister app, Threads, a competitor to Elon Musk's X. In short, it no longer pushes politics on consumers. The company said Friday that it will no longer pre-recommend political posts to users by default, similar to Meta's current policies on Facebook, Instagram and Threads' recommendation engines.
On Facebook, the Meta Feed (formerly News Feed), reels, Facebook Watch (videos), groups you join, and pages you like recommendations reduce the amount of political content. Now, it has announced that the same approach will be coming to Instagram and Reels in the months leading up to the US 2024 election.
In a statement shared on the Instagram blog and the Meta Transparency Center, the company said the changes to the Instagram app will affect areas such as Instagram Reels and Instagram Explore, as well as in-feed recommendations on Instagram and Threads. With the latter move, Meta is differentiating its new app, now called X, from Twitter in an important way.
Twitter is often home to political debates, an extension of its function as a real-time news network. But Instagram is moving threads away from news, delaying the addition of a “Trends” feature as X offers. Instagram head Adam Mosseri also stated in October that Threads specifically would not amplify news on its platform.
To be clear, Meta's upcoming changes will affect Instagram's role in recommending content, but not how it shows content from accounts users already follow, the company said. For example, if an account that doesn't qualify for recommendations posts political content, such as news about elections, laws, or other social issues, that account's content will still reach its followers through feeds and stories. It is simply not recommended in advance for non-adherents.
Instagram Professional accounts can use the Account Status feature to check their current eligibility status and choose to edit or remove posts from this page. If they disagree with Instagram's decision on the content they can request a review or choose to stop posting the content to be eligible for re-recommendation. (However, the company did not say how long it would be necessary to abstain from political office to become eligible again.)
Additionally, users who want to recommend political content can turn it on in their settings on both Instagram and Threads. Facebook will get similar control at some point in the future.
Removing politics from recommendation surfaces and forcing users to toggle it back if they want to watch are meta changes that have fueled world political unrest for years. Whether it's attributed to the genocide in Myanmar or the Jan. 6 attack on the capitol here in the US, Meta's social networking apps have been used to spread hate and misinformation, leading to violence. Clearly, the company wants to put more distance between what algorithms push to its users and content that becomes problematic at scale.
The move will also help provide relief to lawmakers struggling with how to regulate big tech companies that have achieved monopoly power.
Meta says the changes will come “slowly over time to get it right” for Instagram and Threads users, without giving a specific date when they will be fully available to everyone.