Facebook Denies News Trend Bias, Zuckerberg to Meet Conservatives

Facebook has been asked to respond to “these serious allegations” by a Senate committee.

Tech News
2 min read
Facebook has denied allegations of anti-conservative political bias. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Facing flak over allegedly suppressing right-leaning stories on Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg said he would meet influential conservative leaders to explain them how the social networking website stays “as open as possible”.

The move is seen as a damage control exercise by Zuckerberg, who has been criticised heavily in the last few days for censoring certain kind of news.

This week, there was a report suggesting that Facebook contractors working on ‘Trending Topics’ suppressed stories with conservative viewpoints. We take this report very seriously and are conducting a full investigation to ensure our teams upheld the integrity of this product. If we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook

Earlier on Thursday, Facebook had emphasised that it does not permit employees to block news stories from its “Trending Topics” list based on political bias.

Technology news website Gizmodo on Monday had reported that a former Facebook employee said workers “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers” while “artificially” adding other stories to the trending list.

Also Read: FB’s Anti-Conservative Political Bias Causes Social Media Outcry

The Gizmodo story triggered a reaction on social media, with several journalists and commentators raising concerns about alleged bias.

The social media company, whose reach is global, had over a billion daily active users on average in March, according to statistics the company posted to its newsroom. In a post published to Facebook’s media relations section on Thursday, a senior company official outlined its “Trending Topics” guidelines at length.

“Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to discriminate against sources of any political origin, period,” wrote Justin Osofsky, Vice President for global operations.

We have a series of checks and balances in place to help surface the most important popular stories, regardless of where they fall on the ideological spectrum.
Justin Osofksy

The post went on to explain how certain topics emerge in Facebook users’ trending feeds. Potential trending topics are identified by an algorithm, Facebook said, then reviewed by a “Trending Topics” team.

Gizmodo Editor-in-Chief Katie Drummond responded to the post with an email saying, “I don’t see anything that contradicts our reporting – do you?” Their story sparked a Senate committee inquiry.

Republican US Senator John Thune, chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said in a statement on Tuesday that Facebook needed to respond to “these serious allegations.”

Any attempt by a neutral and inclusive social media platform to censor or manipulate political discussion is an abuse of trust and inconsistent with the values of an open Internet
John Thune

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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