3 min read

Wall street journal published a report yesterday that states Facebook had put a halt on its project named “common ground”, late summer, this year, over the concerns that the project could lead to the accusations of political bias on the platform. Common Ground was developed with an aim to promote healthier political discussions for users with differing political beliefs.  

It is reported that the Common Ground Project would have consisted of many different features aimed at reducing the toxic content on the platform and encouraging more positive content surrounding politics. These features included promoting news stories, status updates, and articles shared by people supporting opposite political beliefs. It would also remove any comments and discussions that would promote negativity or hate speech regarding politics. Facebook has already been taking measures to eradicate hate speech and misinformation on its platform as it published a “blueprint” last month, that talks about updating its news feed algorithm.

Joel Kaplan, VP, Global public policy, Facebook, raised concerns

Facebook had done its research and discussions regarding the project for well over a year before deciding to cancel it. The common ground project was terminated when Joel Kaplan, VP of global public policy at Facebook, raised issues regarding the project. Facebook, however, hasn’t commented anything about the ‘Common ground” project and Kaplan’s reported role in the decision to halt it. Kaplan’s complaint with the project was that, first, the name “Common Ground”, in itself sounds “patronizing”, and second, the project might lead to Facebook receiving criticism from conservative users. A spokeswoman for Facebook told WSJ that Facebook considers it absolutely “essential” to understand the diverse point of views when it comes to creating projects that are meant to “serve everyone”.

Kaplan also believed that this attempt to remove polarization, might, in turn, affect the user engagement on Facebook. However, Kaplan was not the only one and Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook also echoed Kaplan’s beliefs. WSJ also states that Kaplan’s voice has become stronger since the US 2016 presidential elections with him having a say when it comes to making product related decisions at Facebook.

The report states that although Kaplan is promoting anti-bias beliefs, he himself has been a part of recent controversies. For instance, Kaplan attended and sat in on the Congressional hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, a then-supreme court nominee, who was accused of sexual misconduct from multiple women. Kaplan’s attendance at the hearing led to a wide outrage from the Facebook employees.  Another example presented in the report is Kaplan’s partnership with the “Daily Caller’s fact-checking entity” that ended in November when “the Daily Caller’s fact-checking operation lost its accreditation”, reports the WSJ.

Nothing can be commented on whether Facebook’s decision to halt the project was a wise one or not, however, the fact that Facebook is taking initiatives towards promoting healthier conversations on its platform seems certainly credible.

The story first appeared on WallStreet Journal.

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