In this research note we document changes to the rate of comments, shares, and reactions on local Republican Facebook pages. Near the end of 2018, local Republican parties started to see a much higher degree of interactions on their posts compared to local Democratic parties. We show how this increase in engagement was unique to Facebook and happened across a range of over a thousand local parties. In addition, we use a changepoint model to identify when the change happened and find it lines up with reported information about the change in Facebook’s algorithm in 2018. We conclude that it seems possible that changes in how Facebook rated content led to a doubling of the total shares of local Republican party posts compared to local Democratic party posts in the first half of 2019 even though Democratic parties posted more often during this period. Regardless of Facebook’s motivations, their decision to change the algorithm might have given local Republican parties greater reach to connect with citizens and shape political realities for Americans. The fact that private companies can so easily control the political information flow for millions of Americans raises clear questions for the state of democracy.
& Hannah, A. L.
(2022). Facebook algorithm changes may have amplified local Republican parties. Research & Politics, 9 (2).