As reported by DailyWire| A study by the Western Journal published this week found that Facebook’s much-publicized change to its News Feed algorithm earlier this year has made it harder for Republican members of Congress to reach their constituents on the platform than their Democratic counterparts.
Citing the company’s “responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcedin January that his company would change the focus of the News Feed algorithm from “helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.” Facebook would do this by prioritizing posts from “friends, family and groups” over other sources, including “businesses, brands, and media.” Facebook also famously explained that the algorithm would emphasize content from what the company deemed to be “trusted sources.”
Western Journal’s analysis found that Facebook pages of members of Congress in general have been dramatically impacted by the algorithm change, but — similarly to the algorithm’s greater impact on conservative outlets than progressive ones — Republicans in both the Senate and House have been impacted “measurably more” than Democrats.
“[T]he interaction rate on Republican congressional Facebook pages decreased by 37 percent, compared to a change of just over 27 percent on Democrat-operated pages,” WJ’s Maxwell Knowles reports. “Moreover, total interactions on Republican congressional members’ Facebook pages decreased by 34 percent, while total interactions on Democrat congressional members’ Facebook pages decreased by 18 percent.”
Republican senators saw a dramatic 44% decrease, while Democrats saw a 32% decrease. Republican representatives were hit with a 32% decrease, while their Democratic counterparts saw a 25% slowdown. The imbalanced decrease in engagement rates was similar when comparing video, photo and link interactions.
Below is a screenshot of the interactive graphs provided by the outlet (view the full graph here):
“What is clear is that the ability of your elected officials in Congress to communicate with you through Facebook has been directly and unilaterally reduced by the January algorithm change, and that Facebook’s significant lack of data transparency makes it impossible for The Western Journal, government regulators or anyone else to defend Facebook’s internal processes as unbiased, make a credible accusation of intentional bias, or make any sort of defensible statement in between,” Knowles writes.
Here’s how WJ explains their methodology:
The Western Journal downloaded months of pre- and post-algorithm change data through CrowdTangle, a social monitoring platform owned by Facebook, for congressional Facebook pages from August 2017 through June 2018. The charts below compare data from the five months prior to January to the five months after January. (January 2018 data was omitted because the algorithm change was made partway through the month.)
The Western Journal looked at total interactions — reactions, comments and shares on a post — and interaction rates — average interactions divided by the number of page followers for each page. Regardless of a change in the number of posts or followers, the interaction rate on a given Facebook page should remain similar from month to month, all else being equal.