In what can only be described a gigantic breach of public trust, former Facebook workers told the news website Gizmodo that Facebook regularly suppressed news stories that would appeal to Conservative users on the site’s new “trending” news section that appears in the right column of the site and also when you go to search for things in the Facebook search bar.
Outrageously, one of the topics Facebook suppressed from the trending section were stories about American hero and icon Navy SEAL Chris Kyle who was murdered in Texas and who is the subject of the blockbuster film, American Sniper.
One source, a journalist, who formerly worked for Facebook on the “trending” project, states that stories covering the politically Conservative CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics were removed from the trending news section despite their organic popularity among users. This admission confirms that Facebook’s “trending news” section was directly influenced and changed by Facebook’s news team to support their values and ignore opposing views.
This admission reveals that Facebook’s news stream is not entirely impartial. Its content is influenced by the values and views of the Facebook editorial staff. Staff members who were known as “curators” were tasked with monitoring a list of trending stories that was generated by Facebook’s algorithm. The group is comprised primarily of young journalists from Ivy League or private east coast colleges. They are tasked with writing headlines and short summaries for the articles before they are submitted to the general public.
A politically Conservative curator who left the company has come forward stating that, depending who was on shift, certain organically popular conservative articles would be blacklisted while less popular liberal new articles would be pushed to the trending feed despite a lack of organic popularity.
The Conservative curator obviously requested to remain unnamed due to the information they released. They were so troubled by the perceived censorship that he began to keep records of the articles that were overlooked. Articles covering Chris Kyle the Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013 and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report were some of the many newsworthy articles that were overlooked.
A second curator has come forward to confirm the allegations that there was an aversion to right-wing news sources. He stated in an interview with Gizmodo:
“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 awhile 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 that wasn’t as biased.”
The conservative curators stated that news sites like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Newsmax were blacklisted and that sites like New York Times, the BBC, and CNN were given precedent as sources for stories.
Other curators denied purposefully excluding conservative news. The conservative curators also deny receiving instructions from upper management to ignore conservative new sources and articles. There is no evidence that management even encouraged using liberal sources over their more conservative counterparts. It is believed that the bias came directly from the curators own judgements and may have even occurred subconsciously.
While the managers on the trending team didn’t specifically instruct the curators to show favoritism to liberal media they certainly did artificially manipulate the content chosen by the Facebook algorithm. Several curators, on both sides of the political spectrum, came forward to admit managment had them inject stories that weren’t doing well organically into the news feed. An “injection tool” was used to push stories that weren’t receiving enough attention to make the news feed on their own into the feed.
Curators claim this was done to give the site the appearance of a “hard news” site. Breaking news would regularly be injected to give the site a reputation as a source for world news. The Charlie Hebdo attack and disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are two examples of stories being forced into the feed. One former curator admitted to giving preference to articles about Syria and Black Lives Matter despite a lack of interest from the public. He said to Gizmodo:
“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.”
This is notable because Black Lives Matter is a group renowned for originating on Facebook and having a powerful social media presence. Mark Zuckerberg even showed support for the movement on several occasions.
Curators also state that, along with being told to inject specific articles into the trending feed, they were instructed to ignore any news related to the company. All articles related to Facebook needed approval from management before being shared in the news feed. The curators were given the opportunity to use their discretion on nearly every topic except an article covering the company.
The curators have admitted that the algorithm is constantly changing and the process for selecting articles may have changed since they have left. May former curators are still concerned about the ability for entry-level curators to impose their political beliefs on what is supposed to be a neutral computer-generated news feed.
Do you think there is a bias in your Facebook news feed? Share your opinion in the comment section below.