Facebook begins highlighting local political posts in new tests

In a series of new tests, Facebook has begun prioritizing posts from local political entities to further civic participation.

Though Facebook recently came under fire for its handling of news – which (arguably) propelled Donald Trump into the US Presidency and beyond – the social media giant is now experimenting with new ways to increase civic participation in local politics.
In a statement to Recode, a Facebook spokesperson has confirmed that the social network is trialling a new feature which places ‘top posts’ from local politicians into one’s News Feed, regardless of whether a user has liked or followed that particular political entity on the platform.
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The spokesperson confirmed that the aforementioned ‘top posts’ will not only reflect the political affiliations or sympathies of a user, but will further show posts from rival parties or representatives in a bid to give readers a more balanced view of an issue or debate. The feature, according to Facebook, is a key bid to heighten the political awareness of its users – specifically on a local level.
The move comes as part of Facebook’s attempt to boost involvement in politics while at the same time disassociating itself from the furore that propagated fake news throughout the service during the 2016 US presidential election.
Facebook’s co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has undertaken a whistle-stop tour of the US this year in a bid to meet organizations and associations in each state of the country. The move has been depicted by some as an early campaign trail, though the CEO has publicly shot down rumours insisting that he intends to one day run for President of the United States.
Regardless of Zuckerberg’s eventual intentions, it seems Facebook is content to stay within the political realm – though it remains to be seen how the service will handle political events in countries beyond its home territory.
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What are your thoughts? Could Facebook’s attempt at bolstering awareness of political events or debates prove useful in other countries, such as South Africa? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA