Ahead of U.S. election, Facebook suspends political and new group recommendations


FILE PHOTO: The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Illustration

(Reuters) - Facebook Inc confirmed on Friday it was temporarily halting recommendations for all political groups and any new groups in the run-up to Tuesday's U.S. presidential election.

Facebook's Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg referred to one of the changes during a Senate hearing on Wednesday, saying: "We have taken the steps to stop recommendations in groups for all political content or social issue groups as a precaution."

Facebook Groups are communities that form around shared interests. Public groups can be seen, searched and joined by anyone on Facebook.

Ahead of the U.S. vote, several watchdog and advocacy groups have pushed for Facebook to limit algorithmic group recommendations. They have argued that some Facebook Groups have been used as spaces to spread misinformation and organize extremist activity.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to say when the changes had been made or how long they would last.

"We will assess when to lift them afterwards, but they are temporary," she said in an email to Reuters.

Facebook also said that as of Friday morning it was limiting the distribution of the 'save our children' hashtag, because of its connections with the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Social media platforms have been cracking down on content related to the unfounded conspiracy theory, which posits that U.S. President Donald Trump is secretly fighting a global cabal of child-sex predators that includes prominent Democrats, Hollywood elites and “deep state” allies.

A Facebook spokeswoman said people will still be able to use the hashtag but clicking on it will not bring up other instances of its use. If users search for the hashtag, they will be shown "credible child safety resources," she said.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Tom Brown)

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