Facebook has struggled with the concept of freedom of expression for some time now. But now the platform is interested in ignoring it more openly. In fact, the platform has been “reducing the spread of problematic content that does not violate [its]policies” since 2016.
Just minutes before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on Tech Censorship, Facebook released an announcement of several new policies. These policies were discussed in a private meeting with a “small group of journalists” in Menlo Park on the morning of April 10. In a blog post, Facebook detailed the policies that were meant to “reduce, remove, and inform” users about “problematic” content.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had mentioned in a previous blog post from December 2018 that he was interested in finding ways to reduce the spread of content that didn’t break Facebook policies, but came close to it. These new standards seem to fall in line with that concept.
As part of the process to “reduce” more content, Facebook stated that it was introducing a program called “Click-Gap,” which would remove or downrank “low quality content” from users’ newsfeeds. The platform also plans to reduce the posts from groups that users subscribe to based on how much “misinformation” the groups share.
A spokesperson from Facebook explained to the Media Research Center, “Just as we've worked to combat misinformation across Facebook, we've also been focused on reducing it in groups. Now, when a group repeatedly shares false news, we will reduce their overall News Feed distribution. Group admins will be notified each time a piece of false news is posted in their group. We will also reduce the distribution of groups that intend to spread misinformation by filtering notifications from the group, and removing them from recommendations.”
So even if a user follows a group and tries to interact with that group’s posts, the user would be unable to see the posts in the newsfeed if Facebook deemed that group untrustworthy based on the news content being shared.
Click-Gap is a strategy to reduce the influence of websites on Facebook that rely on the platform for attention. According to Wired, “Click-Gap, which Facebook is launching globally today, is the company’s attempt to limit the spread of websites that are disproportionately popular on Facebook compared with the rest of the web.”
Facebook also plans to rely heavily on its liberal fact-checker, the Associated Press, in order to determine what news sources on Facebook are trustworthy. Associated Press will also be used to fact check Hispanic content as well.
Facebook also seems to have no plans to replace the now defunct Weekly Standard on its team of fact-checkers, which are now completely liberal. Using standards set by the Trust Fund, Facebook will add context to news sources, such as “The publication’s fact-checking practices, ethics statements, corrections, ownership and funding and editorial team.” Facebook plans on pointing to “journalistic sources” in order to contradict “potentially misleading” information.