- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2016

Facebook employees tasked with telling users what’s trending are routinely told to dismiss articles of interest to conservative readers, former staffers at the social network claim, though Facebook said later in the day that its guidelines prohibit such discrimination.

The former “news curators,” as they’re known internally, told tech blog Gizmodo on Monday that links appearing in Facebook’s “trending” news section don’t necessarily reflect the web’s most popular articles, claiming management asked them to ignore the results of the network’s own algorithms when the results indicated articles involving right-wing topics were organically gaining in popularity.

“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” claimed one former curator. “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.”

Other topics that were reportedly suppressed on the social network include IRS official Lois G. Lerner, Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and ex-Fox News contributor Steven Crowder.

According to one former employee, viral articles appearing on known conservative sites, including Breitbart and Newsmax, were purposely excluded from Facebook’s trending news section until they were picked up by mainstream outlets such as The New York Times and CNN.

“It was absolutely bias. We were doing it subjectively. It just depends on who the curator is and what time of day it is,” the former employee said. “Every once in a while a RedState 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 response to the claims, Facebook said Monday it was taking the accusation of bias “very seriously” and claimed that rigorous guidelines are in place to ensure news articles listed as trending are kept consistent and neutral.

“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,” Facebook said.

Indeed, within hours of the Gizmodo article appearing online, accusations of bias against Facebook was a “trending topic” when users logged on Monday afternoon.

RedState managing editor Leon Wolf told Politico on Monday that he was not previously aware of the accusations made by the former Facebook staffers, but would be “extremely disappointed if a supposed honest broker of online news was putting a finger on the scales to harm conservative viewpoints.”

“We are glad that increased attention is being paid to the tremendous influence that Facebook wields in the way people consume their news and are hopeful that, at the end of the day, Facebook will honor its commitment to its users to be an honest broker of news content,” said Mr. Wolf.

Facebook has boasted over 1 billion account holders internationally since 2012, and around 63 percent of its U.S.-based users said, according to Pew Research, that they got news through the social network in 2015, up from 47 percent in 2013.

Breitbart News said Monday that the Gizmodo report confirms what “conservatives have long suspected: Facebook’s trending news artificially mutes conservatives and amplifies progressives.”

Facebook claims its algorithm simply populates ‘topics that have recently become popular on Facebook’ in its trending news section, but now we know that’s not true,” Breitbart News said in a statement read in part, though it also noted that it “remained in the top 25 Facebook publishers for six months in a row.”

“In a spirit of transparency and community, we invite Mark Zuckerberg to do a Facebook Live interview with Breitbart News Tech Editor Milo Yiannopoulos to explain to the tens of millions of conservatives on Facebook why they’re being discriminated against,” the Breitbart statement said.


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