Social media companies grappling with how to deal with political content is nothing new. It has been over two years since Twitter banned political advertising, and as the lines between politics and conspiracy have sometimes become blurred Facebook’s policies are ever-changing.
Now, a platform that isn’t usually thought of as being full of political content has produced its own new feature. LinkedIn is testing an option that allows users to block political content from their news feeds.
Other platforms will be watching the result of LinkedIn’s test keenly. LinkedIn says it is testing this new feature in response to user feedback that they do not appreciate the increasing number of political posts they are seeing. There will undoubtedly be a portion of users for whom this is true on other platforms; for example people who signed up to Facebook to stay connected with friends and family and have no interest in seeing other people’s political views. This can be seen in Facebook’s ongoing experiment in reducing, but not removing, the amount of political content in users’ news feeds.
But would Facebook implement a feature that allows users to hide political content completely when it has become such a big part of their network? Giving users the option to hide these posts would likely decrease overall engagement with their platform (to note: Facebook does already allow users to hide content from posts and pages users do not want to see).
Then there is the issue of how to define political content. When moderating and categorising content in this way you are bound to upset someone who finds their content restricted but doesn’t consider themselves a political campaigner. Likewise, notable political campaigners have previously displayed outrage having been removed from platforms with such large audiences, even when flagrantly breaking the rules.
These are all questions that social networks will continue to wrestle with as they balance the competing views of their users as well as their own interests. For now, we wait to see how users react to LinkedIn’s trial and if it is deemed to be a success.
This article appeared in the Cicero/amo February 2022 newsletter.
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