Tuesday 28 March 2023

Facebook experiments with Costa Rica reducing political content

Social network runs a test with "a very small percentage" of users, whose exposure to publications about candidates and the government was reduced during the electoral campaign

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QCOSTARICA – Meta, the multinational technology conglomerate, is carrying out an experiment in Costa Rica with a group of users Facebook, to whom, for several weeks, it has shown less content of a political nature on their home pages.

Facebook experiments with Costa Ricans reducing political content The technology company Meta alleges that users “do not want political content to take over their home pages”, and that they want to see more of their niece’s baptism or their son’s first communion” .

According to the Facebook parent company, the test seeks to identify if users have a better experience by seeing more family photos and videos, for example, and fewer posts about elections, candidates and the government.

Metas says the experiment does not reduce the exposure of official sources such as the Government or health authorities that report on covid-19; neither does it reduce the information of the media, but it does reduce the content distributed by other types of profiles and pages.

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“We are applying this test based on user feedback and what we are looking for is to obtain certain information from users in the different countries where the test is being applied, to see if this is positive for the experience that the user has in the platform”, said Íñigo Fernández Batista, Meta director of public policies for North Latin America.

“What can affect is the content of people who are promoting too much political content on the platform, and I think that in this I can use a very clear example. Maybe I have a relative who posts all day long in favor of candidate A or ruler B, and that is the content that would be reduced,” said Fernández.

“People want to see more of their niece’s baptism, their son’s first communion, their aunt’s wedding, so they want to privilege that content,” he added.

However, in an update published by Meta last August, the company acknowledges that “it has learned that these changes are going to affect public affairs content more broadly and that publications (such as companies that produce news and magazines, for example), they may see an impact on their traffic.”

The company representative assured that the test applies “to a very small percentage of users.” According to him, those participating in the experiment gave their consent to be included.

This test is part of a pilot plan that Meta started in February 2021. First, it applied the test in Canada, Brazil, Indonesia and the United States. At the end of August, the company announced that it was receiving “positive results” from this first phase and that it would therefore extend the coverage of the experiment to Costa Rica, Sweden, Spain and Ireland.

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This January 18, in a virtual press conference, the company confirmed that the test is ongoing with users based in Costa Rica.

“We will keep you updated when we have final figures for the conclusion of the trial, since as it continues to be applied, we still do not have data that we can share,” said the spokesperson, when asked how many Costa Rican accounts were included in the trial.

According to the report Digital Costa Rica: 2021, from DataReportal, the Costa Rican audience on Facebook reaches 3.6 million accounts.

This test is carried out just when the electoral campaign is active in the country prior to the February 6 elections, in which the next President and the members of the Legislative Assembly will be elected for the period 2022-2026.

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According to the company, the experiment was launched because users around the world have told them that they “don’t want political content to take over their home pages.” This was announced by Meta in a statement on its news portal, at the beginning of last year.

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