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Facebook denies they suppressed conservative news

Facebook is reacting quickly and aggressively to allegations that they filter out conservative news in an effort to promote a liberal bias.

UX writing

Is Facebook picking what is “news”?

An anonymous former Facebook worker is claiming he witnessed fellow Facebookers suppress news about “popular conservative topics” from the trending topics section to prioritize liberal viewpoints, according to Gizmodo who broke the story.

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Facebook is kicking back, saying they take “allegations of bias very seriously,” and that if any staff was engaging in this behavior, it would have violated company policy. In a statement, the social media giant says “These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives.” Further, they add that the guidelines do not “permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or one news outlet over another.”

The tug of war of truth

Separately, Tom Stocky, a VP at Facebook who leads the trending topics team, said that he has “found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true,” while other curators say they are proud of their transparency and lack of bias. Other Facebookers have indicated that there is no “institutional bias” at the company, but some Gizmodo sources say personal biases might creep into their day-to-day “trending” work.

Gizmodo’s primary source (which was echoed by a second anonymous source) said the suppressing of conservative stories happened subtly and depended “on who was on shift.” One noted, “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.”

Let’s say the allegations are false

Let’s say the allegations are false, and this is just an angry former Facebooker. Perhaps they’re conservative and jaded after working in the liberal-centric industry where he or she may still be entrenched.

The danger of assuming these allegations are true is as bad as assuming they’re false, but this could very well be someone angry about how they got paid or treated, and bent on revenge. Since all sources spoke anonymously and off the record (which is no surprise), there is no way to independently verify the information, which puts other news organizations like ours in a tight spot.

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Let’s say the allegations are true

But let’s say there’s truth to these allegations. What then? As a news organization dedicated to digging for the truth, we would have to vehemently object. It may start with politics, but what’s next? Facebook has already squeezed their algorithm to favor big brands and big news organizations, but maybe next they’ll allow you to share your blog post yet surface it to literally no one if they object to the content or worse, favor your competitor.

Further, these allegations stoke the flames of the people flocking to Trump. There is growing frustration with a perceived liberal bias in the mainstream media, and the average consumer is now catching on to a liberal bias from the tech industry that is also supposed to be agnostic. Americans are being told the entire system is “fixed,” and this will be used as further evidence of those claims, true or false.

Can we trust Facebook?

To be honest, when this story first broke, a group of us were chatting about it, and the universal reaction across political spectrums was “duh, of course they do.”

Whether Facebook suppressed conservative news stories from trending topics or not, the question that stands out to us is – can we trust Facebook? They have a pretty spotty track record of doing whatever they wish, looking down their noses at those outside of the Valley.

So, can we trust Facebook? No. Does that make them guilty of these allegations? No.

It is our solemn wish that these allegations are proven false, because this is the very 1984-esque behavior that has a growing segment of America afraid, and that fear is turning into anger, which may eventually boil over in ways we simply can’t predict.

#FacebookCensors

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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  1. Pingback: What is Facebook's mysterious compound "Area 404"? - The American Genius

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