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  • Voltaire Staff

Meta's apolitical stance has brought down media engagement by 75%, claims Washington Post

An apparent severing of ties with politics by Meta, after years of positioning its social media platforms as vital tools for political campaigns, has led to reduction in the visibility of political content, an analysis has revealed.

Conducted by The Washington Post, the analysis reveals a stark decline in engagement for both the Joe Biden and Donald Trump campaigns on Facebook and Instagram, with a staggering 60 per cent drop in average engagement per post from March 2020 to March 2024.

This trend subverts the traditional targeting strategies relied upon by politicians to connect with voters.

Political advertising spending on social media is predicted to nearly double, increasing from $324 million in 2020 to $605 million in 2024, according to projections by digital analytics firm EMARKETER.

"There’s no other platform that reaches as many voters at that scale," said Eric Wilson, a managing partner at Republican campaign tech incubator Startup Caucus.  He added "So campaigns would be foolish to walk away from that."

Meta spokesperson Dani Lever argued that the changes are a response to user feedback. "People told us they wanted to see less political content and have more controls," she said. "This approach is based on years of work and applies to everyone."

In 2011, Zuckerberg hosted a town hall with President Barack Obama on Facebook. During the 2016 campaign, presidential debates were streamed on Facebook Live. Advertising staff assisted politicians, including embedding with the Trump team in 2016.

However, after Russian interference in the 2016 election, Meta (then Facebook) shifted its approach. It stopped paying commissions to political ad sales reps and launched a new site for promoting political tools.

The January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, partly organised on Facebook, accelerated this change. Zuckerberg later stated they would reduce political content in users' news feeds, as people don't want politics dominating their online experience.

In February, Meta said it would no longer suggest political content from accounts users don’t follow on Instagram or Threads. Instagram's head, Adam Mosseri, had cautioned against promoting politics and hard news on Threads due to potential scrutiny.

The change has significantly reduced engagement for major news outlets.

Between the start of 2022 and the beginning of 2024, the top 25 news organisations in the United States saw a 75 per cent drop in user engagement on Facebook and a 58 per cent decrease in interactions on Instagram.

"Most people don’t care about politics that much, and so they’re not going to go out and seek out information about politics," said Joshua Tucker, a professor at New York University who studies social media and politics, said according to Washington Post.

He added, "Because people were on social media platforms for nonpolitical reasons, they got exposed to more political information."



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