Facebook didn't push through with a project called "Common Ground" that was aimed at fostering a healthier and more civilized form of political discourse on the social media platform.
For a place studded with a garden variety of vitriol — fake news, anti-semitism, sexist remarks, and a plethora of others — a feature such as Common Ground could have helped ring in some much-needed adjustment to toxic conversations exchanged on the platform on a daily basis.
Facebook Common Ground Feature Canceled
However, as The Wall Street Journal reports, Facebook eventually decided to shelve the project since Joel Kaplan, the company's policy chief, thought the term itself could be taken as patronizing, and that it would require users to accept the company's definition of what healthy political discourse is supposed to look like.
The Common Ground initiative consisted of several parts. Those include boosting news stories and status updates from people on the opposite end of the political spectrum from users, while simultaneously giving less visibility to "toxic" comments that start "negative discussion."
These adjustments, Kaplan thought, would have ultimately drawn the ire of conservatives, something Facebook has keenly tried to avoid in recent years given the overwhelming criticism against the site's supposed left-wing bias. Following Kaplan's comments, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives raised concerns over how Common Ground might affect user engagement, and the project was shelved, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Facebook Attempts To Become More Socially Aware
Kaplan has gotten more involved with product decisions at Facebook as the company faces pressure to become more aware of the political element of its social network. One of the things Kaplan has done, the report says, is push for conservative news outlet The Daily Caller to be added in the company's media fact-checkers list, in itself an effort to defeat pervasive misinformation on the site. Zuckerberg was apparently on-board with this idea until the publication lost major accreditation this past November.
Kaplan's "remit has expanded considerably in the last two years," the report adds, and he "now has a say in whether certain news-feed products get launched."
Facebook hasn't formally addressed Common Ground yet, and also its reported cancelation. A spokesperson said the company is currently looking into political polarization, and that it attempts to understand different political perspectives.
Thoughts on Common Ground? As always, if you have anything to share, feel free to sound them off in the comments section below!