It’s being reported that Facebook used its workers to routinely suppress conservative-interest news topics from appearing on the site’s highly-influential “trending” news section. The source of this claim against Facebook, which has long been accused of having a “liberal bias,” is a former journalist who claims to have worked on the project personally. This unnamed individual reportedly told Gizmodo that Facebook employees prevented stories such as those about Mitt Romney, Rand Paul and other conservative topics from showing up in the Facebook trending feed section of the site.
According to the source, these news topics were manually prevented from showing up in the Facebook trending section, despite actually organically trending among users of the world’s largest social media site.
Gizmodo claims that several of Facebook’s former “news curators” told the media outlet that the Facebook employees were further instructed to add or “inject” alternate news stories into the trending news section on Facebook, even if those stories weren’t actually trending. News about Facebook itself was also to be excluded from the Facebook trending section, according to the ex-Facebook news curators.
What does this mean? In a nutshell, it means that Facebook’s “trending” section isn’t really about trends, if the claims are to be believed. Rather, the Facebook trending section operates more like a “traditional newsroom,” and reflects the biases of its workers and the corporation rather than being a true cross-section of what Facebook users are actually discussing.
While this is not necessarily a bad thing, filtering, suppressing and injecting non-trending news stories into the trending news section is a contrast to what Facebook has claimed to be doing. According to Facebook, the trending news module exists to share “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”
Last week, Gizmodo reported on some sketchy details about the Facebook trending section, revealing that the trending news team is really a small group of you, Ivy-League journalists. Their job? Not to report the news or what’s trending, but rather to curate the Facebook trending module, which appears on the upper-right-hand portion of the Facebook site. According to last week’s report, the Facebook trending curators are able to access a ranked list of trending topics, and their job is to write headlines and summaries for each topic as well as include links to external news sources.
The Facebook trending section has become some of the “most powerful real estate on the internet,” and it plays a huge role in what news stories Facebook’s hundreds of millions of users choose to read and explore.
One unnamed former Facebook trending curator has some serious concerns about the way the Facebook trending section is managed, particularly when it comes to conservative topics.
“I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news.”
The curator who spoke to the media is admittedly “politically conservative,” and asked to remain anonymous to avoid potential repercussions from Facebook. According to the former curator, he was one of few conservatives on staff and he’d often find topics that should have been trending, such as Glenn Beck or CPAC, had been excluded from the Facebook trending module because “either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”
The former curator was reportedly “so troubled” by the Facebook trending omission of conservative trending news topics that he kept a list of the topics that Facebook simply didn’t list on its trending module. According to the Gizmodo report, that list included Lois Lerner, Chris Kyle, and news stories published by the Drudge Report.
For Facebook’s part, they have responded to the claims that the social media platform unethically suppresses conservative news topics from their trending section. As ABC News reports, Facebook says that the company has “rigorous guidelines” to make sure that site’s trending section remains neutral.
“There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality. These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives.”
Despite Facebook’s assertion that its trending news section is neutral (if not wholly organically trending), a lot of users are upset about the allegations against the social media site.
So, what do you think? Is Facebook being honest about the neutrality of its trending news section? Is the Gizmodo report the truth, or are we just talking about an ex-employee with a personal beef? Do you rely on Facebook trending for your news, and will this report change how you view the social media giant?
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