Home Major US media outlets see steep decline in engagement on Meta

Major US media outlets see steep decline in engagement on Meta


  • Analysis: Decline in user engagement for top US news outlets on Meta platforms.
  • Meta's strategic pivot away from political content leads to decreased visibility.
  • Shift follows layoffs and criticism over social media's role in political events.

Recent analysis has revealed a noticeable decline in user engagement for the 25 most-cited news organizations in the United States across Meta platforms.

Washington Post reported a 75% drop on Facebook and a 58% decrease on Instagram from the first quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2024. Particularly affected were right-leaning outlets such as Newsmax, the Daily Wire, Fox News, and Breitbart, which experienced more severe declines on Instagram compared to their mainstream counterparts. However, this partisan disparity was not observed on Facebook.

The slump is said to be due to a strategic pivot by Meta, which has been distancing itself from political content across its platforms, including Facebook and Instagram. The company introduced measures to reduce the visibility of political posts and has implemented stringent rules for political advertisers, drastically changing the targeting mechanisms previously used by political campaigns.

This shift follows extensive layoffs within Meta, significantly impacting the team that liaised with political figures and their campaigns. The company has reportedly tasked an advertising sales team, which worked closely with the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, with taking over many of these responsibilities a source familiar with the company’s internal changes told the publication.

The ramifications of these changes are already evident in political circles. A review by The Washington Post noted a 60% drop in engagement per post for both the Biden and Trump campaigns compared to March 2020 figures, with similar trends on Instagram. The Trump campaign has criticized Meta’s actions as biased, whereas the Biden campaign has redirected its efforts towards leveraging influencers and volunteers to disseminate its message in less public online spaces.

Why Meta is moving away from politics

Meta spokesperson Dani Lever explained that the adjustments are in direct response to user preferences. “These changes are intended to impact what people see because that is what they told us they wanted — to see less political content and have more controls,” Lever stated. “This approach builds on years of work and is being applied to everyone.”

The company’s move away from political content also comes after severe criticism over the role social media played in events like the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Shortly after the Capitol attack, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced to investors, “People don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services.”

Meta then declared in February that it would cease recommending political content from unfamiliar accounts on Instagram and Threads. Instagram chief Adam Mosseri stated last year that Threads would steer clear of politics and hard news to avoid undue scrutiny.

The social media giant is still susceptible to attacks from political figures, however. Facebook’s stock dropped significantly following critical remarks from Trump, who accused Facebook of being an “enemy of the people”.

Meta also removed the Facebook News tab for U.S. and Australian users, which led the Australian government to threaten action against the California-based social media company after it announced it would stop paying local media companies this year for using their content.

Featured image: Ideogram / Canva

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Suswati Basu
Tech journalist

Suswati Basu is a multilingual, award-winning editor and the founder of the intersectional literature channel, How To Be Books. She was shortlisted for the Guardian Mary Stott Prize and longlisted for the Guardian International Development Journalism Award. With 18 years of experience in the media industry, Suswati has held significant roles such as head of audience and deputy editor for NationalWorld news, digital editor for Channel 4 News and ITV News. She has also contributed to the Guardian and received training at the BBC As an audience, trends, and SEO specialist, she has participated in panel events alongside Google. Her…

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