Jess Commons | Deputy Editor | Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Facebook Accused Of Doctoring Which News Stories You See

Facebook Accused Of Doctoring Which News Stories You See

The Debrief: Former Facebook employees claim they were asked to leave more conservative news stories off the 'trending' section

Eeeks, this one's a bit scary.

A former Facebook employee who once worked on the site's 'trending' news section (that's the bit in the right hand corner that shows you which news stories from real life are being talked about) has said that he, and other journalists working on this section were told to suppress certain stories from appearing on this feed.

According to the anonymous source, stories about the Conservative Political Action Conference (a super right wing gathering in the US), Mitt Romney, Rand Paul and other conservative issues were prevented from appearing in the 'trending' section.

The source, who kept a log book of the happenings and provided it as evidence to Gizmodo, the tech arm of Gawker Media, told the website that 'Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending.' He continued, '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 source himself is, according to Gizmodo, politically conservative, something that puts him in the minority at Facebook. Since his allegations, Gizmodo has spoken to several more former employees who they claim, back up the original source's claims. They say 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.'

Facebook, for their part, have responded to the allegations saying that they have found 'no evidence' that they're true. Tom Stocky, who heads up the Trending Topics team says that Facebook is for use by people 'from across the political spectrum'.  He says there are 'rigorous guidelines' in place to 'ensure consistency and neutrality'. This means that Facebook does 'not permit the suppression of political perspectives. Nor do they permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or one news outlet over another'. 

For the politically left leaning, the allegations of Facebook supressing stories about known anti-vaxxer and big old douchebag (that's the technical term) Rand Paul might seem like it's not all that much of a big deal. But just imagine if it was the other way around and Facebook were being accused of hiding stories about liberal politicians from their 1.59 billion users. Sobering stuff isn't it?

Free speech only works when applied to both sides of the political spectrum chaps.

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Follow Jess on Twitter @Jess_Commons


Tags: Facebook et al