Facebook drops key project to foster healthy political discourse

Facebook has reportedly stopped working on Common Ground, a project with a goal to encourage healthier political discourse among users. Apparently, this move was partly influenced by the urging of Joel Kaplan, the company’s policy chief, who thought it could spark fears of anti-conservative bias which is something the social media behemoth has tried to avoid.

According to the reports, the objection made by Kaplan was that the term ‘Common Ground’ can be taken as patronizing, and it could ask users to trust the definition provided by Facebook of what a healthy conversation looks like.

Sources familiar with the matter said that Kaplan has believed these efforts for curbing political polarization would have paved a way for criticism from conservatives. The company has been looking avoid this in recent times, as public figures and conservative lawmakers have accused it of left-wing bias.

Following the complaint from Kaplan, concerns were seemingly raised by the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and others about the effects of the initiative on Facebook user engagement, after which the project was dropped.

Purportedly, Kaplan has gotten more involved with the product decisions of Facebook, as the firm tries to steer through tricky political waters. Sources further said that Kaplan has recently pushed for The Daily Caller, a conservative news outlet, for including in the controversial efforts of the company to tap news media fact-checkers for restraining spread of misinformation on the platform.

Zuckerberg had allegedly leaned in favor of the proposal from Kaplan, however the debate went on to be moot when The Daily Caller, in November, lost a key journalism accreditation.

For the record, the Common Ground initiative consisted of a lot of parts, which included boosting status updates and news stories posted by people that are on the political spectrum’s opposite end from users, while also downgrading toxic comments which started negative discussions.