Update: Facebook released a statement on Monday afternoon: "We take allegations of bias very seriously. Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum."
Facebook workers "routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers," reports Gizmodo, regarding the "trending" topics that are inserted in readers' feeds. This was apparently an issue of individuals working on their own initiative rather than the result of corporate policy, but they were directed to squelch news about Facebook itself and to manually inject "missing" stories into the trending topics.
These new allegations emerged after Gizmodo last week revealed details about the inner workings of Facebook's trending news team—a small group of young journalists, primarily educated at Ivy League or private East Coast universities, who curate the "trending" module on the upper-right-hand corner of the site. As we reported last week, curators have access to a ranked list of trending topics surfaced by Facebook's algorithm, which prioritizes the stories that should be shown to Facebook users in the trending section. The curators write headlines and summaries of each topic, and include links to news sites. The section, which launched in 2014, constitutes some of the most powerful real estate on the internet and helps dictate what news Facebook's users—167 million in the US alone—are reading at any given moment.
In short, Facebook's "trending" stuff comes out of a newsroom-like culture, with editorial direction and values. Which would be fine, except for the fact that Facebook claims that its trending topics are an organic or algorithmic representation of user interests and activities. Other Facebook curators Gizmodo spoke to denied that they suppressed conservative viewpoints, and "we were unable to determine if left-wing news topics or sources were similarly suppressed."
Managers also instructed them to insert stories that were not trending despite being in the news; the Charlie Hebdo attacks, for instance, failed to trend on Facebook until it was artificially promoted, according to Gizmodo's source.
.@facebook statement regarding allegations of suppressing trending conservative news stories. pic.twitter.com/bDgxS7Rq48
— Ema O'Connor (@o_ema) May 9, 2016