The Facebook pages of local Republican Party groups saw greater engagement on local Democratic Party pages as news of a Facebook algorithm change emerged in 2018, according to new research.
The research, shared Wednesday in Research & Politics, details a “unique to Facebook” engagement growth gap between GOP pages and their Democratic counterparts by 2019.
The growth included a “doubling in total shares” of local GOP party posts on their pages compared to Democratic posts — more frequent posts — on their pages in the first half of 2019, according to the research.
“Regardless of Facebook’s motivations, their decision to change the algorithm could have given local Republican parties greater scope to connect with citizens and shape political realities for Americans,” the research authors noted in their abstract.
“That private corporations can so easily control the flow of political information for millions of Americans raises clear questions for the state of democracy.”
Kevin Reuning, assistant professor of political science at the University of Miami and co-author of the paper, shared the “strange pattern” he and other co-authors spotted in social media data.
Reuning, in an interview with NBC News, said The Wall Street Journal’s “The Facebook Files” articles “made him wonder if Facebook had a role” in the shift in data from 2018, NBC reported. News.
Dani Lever, a spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, told NBC News that the search “doesn’t match” what Facebook’s 2018 shift to prioritize “meaningful social interactions” actually did. for the platform.
“Trends here seem to rather coincide with a divisive election cycle, and since the differences between political parties in the United States have widened for decades, the idea that a change in Facebook rankings would fundamentally change the way people choose to engage with political parties is implausible,” Lever wrote to NBC News.