Facebook under fire for suppressing news

May 09, 2016, 8:42 PM EDT
(Source: Christopher/flickr)
(Source: Christopher/flickr)
An anonymous ex-employee of Facebook has reported that Facebook workers routinely suppress news stories that have a conservative bent. Even though certain topics would trend among users, Facebook workers would prevent them from appearing in the highly-influential section. Gizmodo reports:
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.
Facebook says it’s against the company’s curation policy to suppress or prioritize specific political views in its Trending topics, and that it has guidelines in place to preserve consistency and neutrality there. This would imply that blame for any deviation from these guidelines would belong to the contractors paid to curate the trends it shows, though there might not have been sufficient enforcement of the rules.
What we're talking about here is that little box in the upper right of your Facebook page — the short list of news topics that are being discussed on Facebook at the moment. They're clearly tailored to the user; as I write, mine include stories about New York (where I live) and politics, which I would assume that a surgeon in Dallas probably wouldn't see. Because Facebook has one-sixth of the world using it every day, pretty much everything is being talked about to some extent. The company uses an automatic system (an algorithm) to surface what's currently popular, and a team of staffers then further curates the list to tailor it to meet particular standards.