Changes will reduce traffic to news publishers on the platform, which is dominated by conservative outlets like Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire.
Facebook’s “news feed” will feed less news to its users under a plan to de-emphasise content considered too political or too current.
The company confirmed in a blog post it would expand its trial to scale back breaking news and political content in and beyond the United States after receiving “positive feedback” on the changes.
The move was first reported by Axios, which said the changes could reduce traffic to news publishers or accounts that post too much political content, based on negative user feedback.
While most news publishers rely on Facebook traffic as a key part of their business model, conservative news outlets generally benefit most as “right-wing populism” is more engaging, according to a Facebook executive quoted by Politico.
Stories published by The Daily Wire, founded by conservative commenter Ben Shapiro, received more likes, shares and comments than any other news publisher over the past year by a wide margin, according to an NPR analysis of social media data. Mr Shapiro’s personal Facebook page, i mellomtiden, had more followers than Washington Post.
The move would impact news publishers but have little impact on Facebook’s bottom line. The company’s chief financial officer David Wehner said during a January earnings call that the political content was “extremely small” and in the “low single-digit for revenue” during a quarter that included the US presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
“So no, it’s not factoring in on either the ad side or the engagement side in our outlook,” Mr Wehner said.
It is unclear if Facebook would apply its new standards to political campaigns that lean on the social media giant for election fundraising and organising.
“We’ve learned that these changes will affect public affairs content more broadly and that publishers may see an impact on their traffic,” Facebook said in its blog post.
“Knowing this, we are planning a gradual and methodical rollout for these tests, but remain encouraged, and expect to announce further expansions in the coming months.”
Under the changes to the ranking algorithm, Facebook will place less emphasis on comments and shares of posts and a higher emphasis on engagement with other types of user feedback, like responses to surveys.
A high ratio of comments to a low number of likes is generally considered a sign of negative user response to a post.
Facebook began testing the changes in the US, Canada, Brazil and Indonesia earlier this year and will begin rolling it out to Costa Rica, Sverige, Spain and Ireland. The move follows previous announcements that Facebook would stop recommending civic and political groups for users to join.
While Facebook said users prefer the changes, the company did not provide any data on which users were sampled or define what political content is.
“But one of the top pieces of feedback we’re hearing from our community right now is that people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at January’s earnings call.
“We’ll have to balance this carefully because we have a deep commitment to free expression. So I believe that if people want to be able to discuss this stuff or join groups there, they should certainly be able to do that," han la til.