It turns out that Meta's definition of "political content" is quite broad, as the company rolls out a new feature — or, some would say, involuntary content filter — that will scrub your feeds of most anything that isn't cat/dog videos.

The change was announced back in February, as the folks at Meta gird their loins for another ugly, onerous election year that could conceivably see Donald Trump assume indefinite dictatorship status. The company said, sounding casual, "People have told us they want to see less political content."

That was in a statement about all Meta properties including Facebook, but the current change pertains just to Instagram and Threads.

"We want Instagram and Threads to be a great experience for everyone," the company said in a blog post. "If you decide to follow accounts that post political content, we don’t want to get between you and their posts, but we also don’t want to proactively recommend political content from accounts you don’t follow."

Now, they defined political content as posts "related to things like laws, elections, or social topics," which is very broad, and could include everything from a drag queen story hour to a local city council meeting, or news about something happening in another country you care about.

Facebook came under fire in 2016, following the surprise election of Donald Trump, for helping to fuel the divisive fire that got hime elected — both through the spread incendiary post and via Russia's disinformation armies targeting American audiences.

For whatever reason, Facebook — whose user base is demonstrably getting older and perhaps less engaged — isn't directly part of this new content filter. Maybe that's because the Facebook algorithm already limits the amount of news-y posts people are seeing, as part of changes made over the last several years.

As NPR explains, as of this week, users of Instagram and Threads now need to go into their settings and opt out of this new content filter, if they want to continue to see recommended content that is "likely to mention governments, elections, or social topics that affect a group of people and/or society at large."

What it sounds like they're saying, is if you only want to see the scantily clad models, interior design, food posts, and funny pet videos that currently dominate your feed, you don't have to do anything. But if you enjoy seeing some content that is relevant to the real world happening outside your fantasies and your kitchen — and your love of cats — you will need to head to your settings and flip this new "political content" switch. (And/or, you need to start following some different accounts.)

How they're actually doing this filtering is another curious question — like, how many keywords would you have to include, and how much work is an AI doing to scan content for anything "controversial" or that "affect[s' a group of people and/or society at large" to keep all this stuff out of people's recommendations?

A spokesperson for Meta, Dani Lever, has apparently been issuing a boilerplate statement about this change saying that it builds on "years of work on how we approach and treat political content based on what people have told us they wanted."

And Instagram head Adam Mosseri says they hope to "preserve the ability for people to choose to interact with political content, while respecting each person's appetite for it."

But how big is your appetite for scantily clad models or recipe videos? And, please admit it, Instagram likely gives you more than you consciously want of these on any given day, because that's how scrolling works.

Anyway, Meta, per usual, would love to stay above the politcal fray if it can — Donald Trump already considers them an "enemy of the people," and they certainly don't want that if he ends up in the White House again.

So maybe if they lull enough people into apolitical, doom-scrolling dazes by November, no one will notice they're there and no one will blame them for another election.

Previously: Trump Calls Facebook an 'Enemy of the People' For No Particular Reason

Photo: Nathana Reboucas