Facebook Suppresses Conservative News-Unproven!
Summary of eRumor:
Former Facebook employees have claimed that the social media platform regularly censors conservative news stories.
It’s true that Gizmodo reported that a former Facebook employee claims Facebook has suppressed conservative stories in its “trending” news section — but it’s too early to tell exactly how credible that source is.
The report, which appeared at Gizmodo on May 9th under the headline, “Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News” has a number of contradictions.
First, the headline states that multiple former Facebook workers came forward with allegations that conservative stories had been suppressed — yet the story cites just one unnamed former Facebook employee who reportedly made that claim:
Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.
So, given that the allegation was made by one unnamed source, it’s far less credible than if several former Facebook employees came forward with allegations that conservative stories have been suppressed. Multiple, independent sources carry much more weight when it comes to allegations like these.
The report includes a second — separate — allegation that Facebook employees tamper with trending news by planting liberal-friendly stories, even some that aren’t trending at all, into news feeds:
Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all. The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module.
For its part, Facebook states that it uses a multi-tiered approach to determine which topics are trending and therefore should be included in news feeds:
Trending shows you topics that have recently become popular on Facebook. The topics you see are based on a number of factors including engagement, timeliness, Pages you’ve liked and your location.
On a computer, the topics are grouped into 5 categories: All News, Politics, Science and Technology, Sports and Entertainment.
By Facebook’s own admission, popularity is just one factor that it considers when determining trending topics. So, even if the company is “injecting” stories into news feeds that aren’t already popular, that wouldn’t be very surprising considering that other metrics — timeliness, engagement, location, etc. — are also factors. There’s no proof that those have been “injected” to further a political argument.
This isn’t the first time that Facebook has been accused of liberal bias, either. WND claimed in a 2015 editorial that Facebook uses algorithms, keyword searches and individual reports to identify questionable content, which means that “if enough libs gather together to report your page, even if you’ve done nothing but gore some Democratic oxen, you will eventually lose your page.”
Additionally, Western Journalism reported in January 2014 that Facebook’s then-new policy to highlight stories that its programmers consider to be “high quality” led to its Facebook performance tanking while “leftist” news agencies surged:
Frustratingly, Facebook itself has been less than forthcoming about which types of content it will allow users to see. While an explanation on the site offered multiple vague nods to “high quality articles,” it did not elaborate on what type of content its new algorithm favors.
With more than 4 million monthly page views, it is obvious many Americans consider WesternJournalism.com a reliable and “high quality” source for news and commentary. It is also apparent, however, that Facebook embraces a thinly veiled bias against conservative pages.
According to a report by the BuzzFeed Network, which publishes a number of leftist sites including The Huffington Post and Slate, its Facebook traffic has never been higher. On the other side of the aisle, though, pages with a conservative bent are losing viewers through no fault of their own.
So, complaints about Facebook’s liberal bias aren’t new — and there hasn’t been hard evidence produced to support them, either. When it comes to the report that Facebook suppresses conservative stories, we need more than just one unnamed source to call it “true.” That’s why we’re calling this one “unproven.”