Facebook is a private company and has every right to do as it pleases with its platform, even if that means pushing a political agenda via its “news” feed.
That said, liberal CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been explicit with his intention force his views on his users. For example, we learned the following in last year’s post, Facebook Reveals its Master Plan – Control All News Flow:
In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.
The new proposal by Facebook carries another risk for publishers: the loss of valuable consumer data. When readers click on an article, an array of tracking tools allow the host site to collect valuable information on who they are, how often they visit and what else they have done on the web.
And if Facebook pushes beyond the experimental stage and makes content hosted on the site commonplace, those who do not participate in the program could lose substantial traffic — a factor that has played into the thinking of some publishers. Their articles might load more slowly than their competitors’, and over time readers might avoid those sites.
One of the ways Facebook has been pursuing its news push is through its trending tool. The idea is that a neutral algorithm determines what readers are interested in and talking about at a grassroots level, then place position those stories appropriately within the trending feed. That’s how you’d hope it work, but the reality appears to be far, far different.
“We as a company are neutral – we have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote.”
That is a quote from a Facebook spokesperson given in response to a leaked internal poll which asked what responsiblity Facebook had in preventing Donald Trump from becoming the next president.
In light of the fact that a former employee is now admitting Facebook routinely suppresses conservative news stories from its trending news section, we’re curious if that same response will be used.
An individual who worked on the project told Gizmodo that Facebook prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the trending news section. Additionally, several former Facebook “news curators” as they are known internally, told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” stories into the news flow, even though they weren’t popular enough to be included.
As Gizmodo reports, Facebook’s “news” team is just a group of young journalists educated at Ivy League or other private East Coast universities injecting their liberal views into a news stream that 167 million in the U.S. alone are reading at any given moment.
“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending” said a former curator who was one of very few conservatives on staff. “I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending, because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.” added the individual.
A list of stories that were deep-sixed was provided to Gizmodo, which included stories such as Lois Lerner and the IRS targeting, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, anything from the Drudge Report, Former Nave Seal Chris Kyle, and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder. “I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news” the former curator said.
Another former curator agreed, saying “it was absolutely bias. We were doing it subjectively. It just depends on who the curator is and what time of day it is. Every once in a while a Red State or conservative news source would have a story. But we would have to go and find the same story from a more neutral outlet.”
Examples of that would be anything from outlets such as Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Newsmax, would have to be excluded unless liberal sites like the New York Times, BBC, and CNN were covering the story.
Although there is no evidence that management directed such actions, managers did instruct curators to put stories into the feed that management felt were important, even if they weren’t being covered enough to be picked up by the trending algorithms.
“We were told that if we saw something, a news story was on the front page of these ten sites, like CNN, the New York Times, and BBC, then we could inject the topic. If it looked like it had enough news sites covering the story, we could inject it even if it wasn’t naturally trending. We would get yelled at if it was all over Twitter and not on Facebook” said the former curators.
Facebook not only manipulated the trending news flow, but also pretended it was covering ‘hard news’.
“People stopped caring about Syria, and if it wasn’t trending on Facebook, it would make Facebook look bad. Facebook got a lot of pressure about not having a trending topic for Black Lives Matter. They realized it was a problem, and they boosted it in the ordering. They gave it preference over other topics.” said a former curator.
So, as it turns out, Facebook is just another liberal leaning organization with a news platform that is manipulated to show what it deems important to convey to its users. As yet another conspiracy theory turns to conspiracy fact, this will be a difficult for Facebook to unwind – even if Zuckerberg wears his coolest hoodie while trying to do so.
Now today, Recode is reporting that Facebook training documents given to its editors have leaked, and they reveal that editors select trending news topics from just ten editors, only one of which could be considered semi right-wing.
A report published in the Guardian today includes a training document for Facebook editors that outlines how they should curate the “trending” headlines tool.
Instructions in the documents appear to contradict Facebook’s earlier denials of a Gizmodo article that said Facebook editors directly inserted headlines into the trending news widget. It also contradicts what Facebook told Recode last summer.
The guidelines obtained by the Guardian additionally show that editors must select trending news topics from a list of 10 “trusted” news sources that include the New York Times, BBC News, CNN and Fox News. This is likely to make people who are upset about alleged anti-conservative bias that Gizmodo reported on even madder; Fox News looks like the only semi right-wing outlet on the list.
In turn, Facebook provided the Guardian with a much longer list of approved publications that includes conservative websites like the Daily Caller and the Drudge Report. The Guardian notes that the former Facebook editors it spoke to disagreed with the allegations of anti-conservative leanings at Facebook.
In a response to the Guardian from Facebook VP of global operations Justin Osofsky, the company did not appear to contest the charge that its editors choose which headlines to use in the trending section.
Representatives for Facebook could not immediately be reached for comment.
Now would be a good time for the company to simply admit to its shady practices, and implement a correction before things continue to deteriorate for darling of social media.