Instagram and Threads will no longer 'proactively' recommend political content

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Meta doesn't want its new app Threads to become another Twitter, full of heated political debates and the resulting toxicity that entails. In an announcement today, the company detailed how it will approach the recommendation of political content across both Instagram and its sister app, Threads, a competitor to Elon Musk's X. In short, it will no longer push politics on users. Similar to Meta's existing policies on Facebook, Instagram and Threads' recommendation engines now won't proactively suggest political posts to users by default, the company said on Friday.

On Facebook, Meta has reduced the amount of political content that appears in the Feed (formerly News Feed), Reels, Facebook Watch (videos), Groups You Should Join and Pages You May Like recommendations. Now, it's announcing this same approach will come to Instagram and Reels in the months leading up to the U.S. 2024 elections.

In an announcement shared on the Instagram blog and Meta Transparency Center, the company said the changes to Instagram's app will impact areas like Instagram Reels and Instagram Explore, as well as the In-Feed Recommendations across both Instagram and Threads. With the latter move, Meta is differentiating its new app from Twitter, now called X, in a significant way.

Twitter has often been home to political debate, an extension of its function as a real-time news network. But Instagram has been distancing Threads from news, having delayed the addition of a "trends" feature, as X offers. Instagram head Adam Mosseri also specifically stated in October that Threads won't "amplify news" on its platform.

To be clear, Meta's coming changes impact 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's not eligible for recommendation posts political content, like news about elections, laws or other social topics, that account's content will still reach its followers via the Feed and Stories. It just won't be proactively recommended to non-followers.

Image Credits: Meta

Instagram says professional accounts will be able to use an Account Status feature to check their current eligibility status and can choose to edit or remove posts from this page. They can also request a review if they disagree with Instagram's decision on a piece of content, or can choose to stop posting content to be eligible for recommendation again. (The company didn't say how long it would need to refrain from political posts to once again be eligible, however.)

In addition, users who do want political content recommended will be able to turn this on in their Settings on both Instagram and Threads. Facebook will also get a similar control at some point in the future.

Removing politics from recommendation surfaces and forcing users to toggle it back on if they want to see it are changes that come after years of Meta shouldering the blame for much of the world's political unrest. Whether that's being held responsible for genocide in Myanmar or for the January 6 attack on the Capitol here in the U.S., Meta's social networking apps have been used to amplify hate and misinformation, leading to violence. Clearly, the company wants to put more distance between what it pushes to its users via algorithms and the sort of content that could become problematic at scale.

The move could also help to soothe lawmakers who are weighing how to regulate Big Tech companies that have achieved monopoly power.

Meta says the changes will roll out to Instagram and Threads users "slowly over time to get this right," without offering a specific date they would be fully available to all.