Facebook is taking allegations that employees routinely suppressed trending news stories of interest to conservative readers "very seriously," a spokesperson for the social media giant said Monday.
Earlier in the day, the website Gizmodo published a report citing several former Facebook "news curators" who said they were instructed to "inject" certain stories into the influential "trending" section — even if they weren't actually trending — and to suppress others, usually catering to a liberal bias.
Their explicit purpose at Facebook was to write headlines and descriptions for news stories identified as trending by an algorithm, but the employees — described as young Ivy League educated journalists — said their jobs were much more curatorial.
The former curators, who have remained anonymous, said they were often told by their managers to "artificially manipulate" the trending module to cause hard news topics to trend when they weren't, giving such examples as "#BlackLIvesMatter" or the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
The curators suggested this was to compete with Twitter, which had long been the preferred social media site for delivering timely breaking news to wide audiences.
They also alleged certain conservative-leaning stories were "blacklisted" from the trending module. And that they were instructed to block news about Facebook itself in the trending section.
A spokesperson for Facebook told BuzzFeed News that they are taking the "allegations of bias" seriously, but said rigorous guidelines "do not permit the suppression of political perspectives."
Here is Facebook's full statement:
We take allegations of bias very seriously. Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum. Trending Topics shows you the popular topics and hashtags that are being talked about on Facebook. 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.
The same day the Gizmodo story was published, the allegations appeared on Facebook's trending module.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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