Research finds Facebook’s algorithm update in 2018 boosted local GOP groups
According to research published Wednesday, a change in Facebook’s recommendation system led to a significant increase in engagement and visibility to conservative political groups on the platform. This was evident from 2018 to 2018, according to.
Research & Politics published the research. It examined posts from nearly all the U.S. county parties and found a significant increase in shares, comments, and reactions to Republican posts.
The data was collected by researchers at Miami University and Wright State University in Ohio. CrowdTangle is a social media analysis tool owned largely by Meta. The researchers found that interactions between posts from Republican and Democratic party pages were roughly the same as those posted to local Democratic and Republican pages until 2018. Both parties received more interactions by 2019, but there was a significant gap. In July 2019, posts from local Republican Parties were shared three times more often than posts from local Democratic Parties.
Kevin Reuning (assistant professor of political science at Miami University), was the author of the paper. He pulled the data in 2020 to support a different project. Reuning said that he didn’t initially understand the difference in engagement. He suggested that he thought maybe the Republican messages were resonating more. However, the same pattern was not found on Twitter and it was consistent across over 1,000 Republican pages on Facebook.
He stated that broad movement over hundreds of vocal groups requires something to change in the ecosystem. You’re left with a black box algorithm that no one knows the details of what gets shown, and why.
This paper is part of a growing data-based research collection that shows Facebook has always amplified conservative content. This paper is the first to show that a 2018 algorithm change Facebook made amplified Republican causes at hyperlocal levels, which allowed the Republican Party to reach more people and possibly affect state and local elections. By 2021, the number of reactions, comments, and shares started to decline on Republican posts, and the gap between local Republican Parties and their Democratic counterparts began narrowing again. This data is ending in April 2021.