Conservatives who have long suspected that social media behemoth Facebook leans to the liberal side of the political spectrum now have some more evidence to back up their suspicions. The tech blog Gizmodo revealed that Facebook blacklists certain topics from appearing in its Trending Topics section, and stories from certain conservative news sites from showing up in its users news feeds:
“The trending news section is run by people in their 20s and early 30s, most of whom graduated from Ivy League and private East Coast schools like Columbia University and NYU. They’ve previously worked at outlets like the New York Daily News, Bloomberg, MSNBC, and the Guardian. Some former curators have left Facebook for jobs at organizations including the New Yorker, Mashable, and Sky Sports.
According to former team members interviewed by Gizmodo, this small group has the power to choose what stories make it onto the trending bar and, more importantly, what news sites each topic links out to. ‘We choose what’s trending,’ said one. ‘There was no real standard for measuring what qualified as news and what didn’t. It was up to the news curator to decide.’
They were also told to select articles from a list of preferred media outlets that included sites like the New York Times, Time, Variety, and other traditional outlets. They would regularly avoid sites like World Star Hip Hop, The Blaze, and Breitbart, but were never explicitly told to suppress those outlets. They were also discouraged from mentioning Twitter by name in headlines and summaries, and instead asked to refer to social media in a broader context.
News curators also have the power to ‘deactivate’ (or blacklist) a trending topic—a power that those we spoke to exercised on a daily basis. A topic was often blacklisted if it didn’t have at least three traditional news sources covering it, but otherwise the protocol was murky—meaning a curator could ostensibly blacklist a topic without a particularly good reason for doing so.”
Rather than being the open forum for discussion that Facebook claims to be, it is instead censoring the topics and news sites that aren’t favored by the curators who mostly attended liberal colleges and universities, and who worked for liberal news organizations before coming to work for Facebook.
Social media sites like Facebook have an obligation to protect its users from objectionable content like pornography, but if it truly wants to be the news source for millions of people, then it should make sure its curating team is fair and balanced and that all points of view have an equal opportunity to be seen on its site.
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