Facebook Under Fire for Allegedly Biased News Curation

By Jennifer Cowan


Facebook is in some political hot water this week with accusations of bias being leveled at the social network.

The uproar began with a report from Gizmodo that Facebook’s news curators habitually ignored news stories that would be of interest to conservative readers, in favor of liberal viewpoints.

The tech publication, which cited former Facebook news curators as sources, wrote that many conservative topics were excluded from the site’s trending news section despite the fact that they were trending organically with Facebook users.

Facebook has denied any bias exists, saying that it follows its strict policies to ensure “consistency and neutrality.”

Facebook vice-president of search Tom Stocky, in a post on his wall, also defended the social network.

“Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum. There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality. 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,” Stocky’s post reads.

“Trending Topics is designed to showcase the current conversation happening on Facebook. Popular topics are first surfaced by an algorithm, then audited by review team members to confirm that the topics are in fact trending news in the real world and not, for example, similar-sounding topics or misnomers.”

Facebook’s denials come after some heavy criticism.

The Republican National Committee, in a blog post, had this to say: “With 167 million U.S. Facebook users reading stories highlighted in the trending section, Facebook has the power to greatly influence the presidential election. It is beyond disturbing to learn that this power is being used to silence view points and stories that don’t fit someone else’s agenda. Censorship in any form should give Americans who value their fundamental freedoms great pause.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, known for his liberal viewpoint, was also critical.

“Aside from fueling right-wing persecution, this is a key reminder of dangers of Silicon Valley controlling content,” he said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, a Republican who leads the Senate’s Commerce Committee, sent a letter to Facebook asking CEO Mark Zuckerberg to explain how the social networking company polices bias.

While some are applauding the step, others have been decidedly critical. In an opinion piece, the Huffington Post wrote that Facebook “should tell Congress, as …read more