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Facebook Moves to Muffle Politics on Its Platform

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Facebook Inc. said it is beginning to reduce how much political content users see on its main platform, potentially diminishing the role that the world’s largest social network plays in elections and civil discourse more broadly.

The announcement, made in a Wednesday blog post, follows Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s declaration on the company’s earnings call last month that most users wanted to see less political content. He said at the time that cutting back on politics would allow Facebook to “do a better job of helping to bring people together and helping to promote healthier communities.”

Facebook says that political content currently constitutes only 6% of what people see on the platform. It will begin running experiments to reduce that amount for a small percentage of people in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia immediately, with tests in the U.S. in weeks to come.

The company said it isn’t removing political content but rather exploring ways to reduce the exposure for users who would prefer not to see it.

The effort marks a pivot for Facebook, which has historically relished its role as a central, populist actor in elections and social movements around the world. In an October 2019 speech, Mr. Zuckerberg declared social media to be “the fifth estate,” a center of civic power on par with the press as well as the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

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