Facebook’s news section may tout itself as a site that determines its trending topics based on unbiased algorithms – but according to former “curators” and at least one journalist who worked for the company, the media giant is actually as anti-conservative as mainstream news comes.
In an interview with Gizmodo, a former Facebook journalist said the media outlet regularly prevented stories about Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, CPAC – the Conservative Political Action Conference – and other topics of major interest to conservatives from posting in its “trending” news section, one of the most-read and heavily trafficked sites on the Internet.
Other former “news curators” who worked for Facebook as independent contractors told Gizmodo they were told to “inject” certain stories into the trending news spot, despite the fact they weren’t trending hot at all.
Among the news injected into feeds was everything concerning “Black Lives Matter.”
“Facebook got a lot of pressure about not having a trending topic for Black Lives Matter,” the former curator told Gizmodo. “They realized it was a problem, and they boosted it in the ordering. They gave it preference over other topics.”
As Gizmodo put it: “In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing – but it is in stark contrast to the company’s claims that the trending module simply lists ‘topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.’”
The revelations came to light after another Gizmodo story last week reported how most of Facebook’s news team stemmed from Ivy League colleges or private East Coast universities. The job of the curators is to write headlines and summaries of each trending news story, then link the text to the news site.
“Depending on who was on shift,” one former curator told Gizmodo, “things would be blacklisted or trending. “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 person said that Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service official who has been in the crosshairs of Republicans for allegedly targeting conservative groups; the Drudge Report; and Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), who ran for president last year, were among the topics not included on the list, according to the Hill.
And another former curator found similarly.
“It was absolutely bias,” the curator told Gizmodo. “We were doing it subjectively. It just depends on who the curator is and what time of day it is. Every once in a while, a Red State or conservative news source would have a story. But we would have to go and find the same story from a more neutral outlet that wasn’t as biased.”
In other words: Breitbart was out, but CNN was in.
“We were told,” a curator said, “that if we saw something, a news story that was on the front page of these ten sites, lke CNN, the New York Time and BBC, then we could inject the topic. If it looked like it had enough news sites covering the story, we could inject it, even if it wasn’t naturally trending.”
Talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh commented on the revelation Monday by repeatedly referring to Facebook as “Fakebook.”
“This is gonna surprise anybody?” Limbaugh asked rhetorically. “Conservatism’s been suppressed [for a long time]. It’s just now people are coming out and admitting it.”