Accuracy in Media

Facebook, which has come under heavy criticism after a story last week in Gizmodo accused the social media giant of bias against conservatives in its Trending Topics, is fighting back.

Tom Stocky, VP of search for Facebook, posted this on May 9 about the bias allegations:

“My team is responsible for Trending Topics, and I want to address today’s reports alleging that Facebook contractors manipulated Trending Topics to suppress stories of interest to conservatives. We take these reports extremely seriously, and have found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true.

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.

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.

We are proud that, in 2015, the US election was the most talked-about subject on Facebook, and we want to encourage that robust political discussion from all sides. We have in place strict guidelines for our trending topic reviewers as they audit topics surfaced algorithmic: reviewers are required to accept topics that reflect real world events, and are instructed to disregard junk or duplicate topics, hoaxes, or subjects with insufficient sources. Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to systematically discriminate against sources of any ideological origin and we’ve designed our tools to make that technically not feasible. At the same time, our reviewers’ actions are logged and reviewed, and violating our guidelines is a fireable offense.

There have been other anonymous allegations — for instance that we artificially forced #BlackLivesMatter to trend. We looked into that charge and found that it is untrue. We do not insert stories artificially into trending topics, and do not instruct our reviewers to do so. Our guidelines do permit reviewers to take steps to make topics more coherent, such as combining related topics into a single event (such as #starwars and #maythefourthbewithyou), to deliver a more integrated experience.

Our review guidelines for Trending Topics are under constant review, and we will continue to look for improvements. We will also keep looking into any questions about Trending Topics to ensure that people are matched with the stories that are predicted to be the most interesting to them, and to be sure that our methods are as neutral and effective as possible.

Admittedly, bias is hard to prove, and for all we know the former employees that spoke to Gizmodo could have been trying to seek some type of revenge against Facebook. But an article in The Guardian based on leaked documents about the trending news operation shows that human intervention plays a key part in what winds up as a Trending Topic, and that blacklisting is indeed possible.

The bottom line is that Facebook needs to be more transparent in how news is curated on its site. Stocky’s post is a step in the right direction, especially if it leads to a more balanced Trending Topics.





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Comments

  • PORCH MONKEY

    It’s simple, drop FB. Who needs them. F U C K ZuckerJEW.

  • Mike Mesa

    If Facebook’s sugar daddy George Soros ever has to cut jobs there, Facebook employees could make the transition easily to the IRS.

  • Mad Marx

    Zucker would have made Goebbels proud!

  • Steven Barrett

    Lay of the anti-Semitism. What does Zuckerberg’s religion have anything to do with his running of Facebook? I’d just wish he’d get rid of that high-schoolish “friends” junk.

  • PORCH MONKEY

    It’s “off” not “of” I don’t like dirty JEWS, so F U C K YOU

  • Steven Barrett

    Never mind Zuckerberg, Der Eiwige Troll, “Porch Monkey” is probably a flaming self-hating Jew who has ab-so-lute-ly nothing to do but sit and spew his hatred. If Der Porch Monkey has a FB page, it’d be fascinating to see his collection of “friends.” Count on them being ll made up characters that he gave the names of Hitler’s top brass so he could commune with Satan’s rightist agents. Yah, who’s really doing Goebbels proud? Even der late and not so great Reichsführerfürpropaganda demonstrated more class in his worse diatribes. Wiedersehn.