In a shocking new report today that has conservatives up in arms, Facebook workers admit having suppressed conservative news stories on the mammoth social media web site in favor of articles from the liberal mainstream media.
Contractors who worked as “curators” for Facebook’s trending topics section, which puts the topnews stories at the fingertips of users of the social media web site, regularly censored stories trending among Facebook members who are conservatives, according to a Monday report from Gizmodo.
In the interviews, a former Facebook curator told Gizmodo that topics popular with conservatives were not included on the trending list. The conservative Facebook contractor speculated that the person running the list “didn’t recognize the news topic” or was biased against a conservative figure involved.
Another former curator told Gizmodo that if a story originated on a conservative news website, like LifeNews.com, curators would look for a link to the story from a liberal media web site to place in the trending list instead. Such decisions would suppress traffic to web sites like LifeNews and other conservative and pro-life web sites.
A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately offer an on-the-record comment.
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.
SUPPORT LIFENEWS! If you like this pro-life article, please help LifeNews.com with a donation!
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.
In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing—but it is in stark contrast to the company’s claims that the trending module simply lists “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”
These new allegations emerged after Gizmodo last week revealed details about the inner workings of Facebook’s trending news team—a small group of young journalists, primarily educated at Ivy League or private East Coast universities, who curate the “trending” module on the upper-right-hand corner of the site. As we reported last week, curators have access to a ranked list of trending topics surfaced by Facebook’s algorithm, which prioritizes the stories that should be shown to Facebook users in the trending section. The curators write headlines and summaries of each topic, and include links to news sites. The section, which launched in 2014, constitutes some of the most powerful real estate on the internet and helps dictate what news Facebook’s users—167 million in the US alone—are reading at any given moment.
“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” said the former curator. This individual asked to remain anonymous, citing fear of retribution from the company. The former curator is politically conservative, one of a very small handful of curators with such views on the trending team. “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.”
The former curator was so troubled by the omissions that they kept a running log of them at the time; this individual provided the notes to Gizmodo. Among the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder. “I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news,” the former curator said.
LifeNews.com, which is the leading pro-life news web site on the Internet and the only one specifically devoted to pro-life issues, has long believed that Facebook has been suppressing its traffic. In recent months, other reports have surfaced that Twitter has also been deep-sixing content from conservative and pro-life sources.