Former Facebook employees have come forward stating that Facebook’s algorithms intentionally suppress conservative-leaning news features.
According to tech news outlet Gizmodo, a former Facebook news curator says popular articles from politically conservative outlets on conservative subjects were deliberately left off of the “trending news” sidebar. Among the allegedly restricted topics: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder.
Facebook has denied all claims, and a spokesperson told USA Today that it has “rigorous guidelines” to ensure political neutrality in the distribution of news to its 1.6 billion users around the globe.
The company said in an emailed statement, “We take allegations of bias very seriously. Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum. Trending Topics shows you the popular topics and hashtags that are being talked about on Facebook. These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives, nor do they permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another, or one news outlet over another. These guidelines do not prohibit any news outlet from appearing in Trending Topics.”
Allegations made by the former staffers cannot be verified with complete certainty and could be attributed to a select few attempting to push their own views. Still, the claims about Facebook’s political biased are drawing attention, especially considering the upcoming presidential election.
As Facebook has come to be one of, if not the, biggest news source globally, it could face backlash if more evidence suggests it is not the neutral platform that Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook, suggests.
The US Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over media issues, consumer protection issues, and internet communication, has sent a letter to Facebook in response to the claims requesting answers to questions it has on its trending topics section.
As reported by Gizmodo, the letter asks that Facebook “arrange for your staff including employees responsible for trending topics to brief committee staff on this issue.”
Examples of questions included in the letter read as follows: Have Facebook news curators in fact manipulated the content of the Trending Topics section, either by targeting news stories related to conservative views for exclusion or by injecting non-trending content? What steps is Facebook taking to investigate claims of politically motivated manipulation of news stories in the Trending Topics section? If such claims are substantiated, what steps will Facebook take to hold the responsible individuals accountable?
Facebook has released a statement in response to the committee’s inquiry, stating that it “looks forward to addressing” the posed questions.