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Facebook steps up promotion of groups content in feeds

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Facebook has said it would begin promoting content from public Facebook Groups in users’ news feeds and in search engine results, defying calls by watchdog groups to limit algorithmic recommendations ahead of US elections next month.

In a blog post, Facebook app chief Fidji Simo said the company would surface recommendations in news feeds by showing “related talks” from public groups next to a link or post. Facebook Groups are communities that form around shared interests, and public groups’ posts may be seen by any user.

Simo said Facebook would also begin showing conversations from public groups outside the app, such as in searches.

Facebook declined to specify when the modifications would be rolled out, with a spokesman saying only that US evaluations would begin “in a very limited capacity” at the coming weeks.

The company, which made groups a strategic priority last year, also said it was adding new moderation tools for more than 70 million people running those communities to help them reject articles, direct talks and organize paid sponsorships.

According to an internal memo seen by The Verge, the teams push this season has been a success for involvement on the Facebook app, with articles up 31.9% year over year as of August.

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At the same time, the company has faced a string of scandals over extremist activity within groups, including the spread of thousands of Boogaloo, QAnon and militia groups and communities promoting health misinformation.

Facebook has slowly removed some such classes and limited recommendations to other people.

Its new classes push comes days after Accountable Tech along with a dozen other advocacy organizations called on Facebook to interrupt its usage of group recommendations altogether before the outcome of the Nov. 3 elections are formally certified.

The coalition accused Facebook of assigning groups despite red flags from investigators, warning that the resources have become “hidden breeding grounds for disinformation campaigns and organizing platforms for extremists.”

Adam Conner, a former Facebook executive who now leads technology policy at the left-leaning Centre for American Progress, said the company’s decision risked accelerating those dynamics.

“Giving content from those groups wider distribution and easier discovery is a dangerous choice right before a contentious election during a pandemic,” said Conner.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed the ‘[post_title]’ article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Katie Paul. Editing by Cynthia Osterman.

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