Facebook has responded to allegations that it censored conservative publications from its Trending Topics section.
A May 3 report from Gizmodo claimed Facebook had an editorial team curating the Trending Topics section, while the company outwardly claimed it used an algorithm-based methodology.
The team, compromised of contractors and not Facebook employees, allegedly exercised editorial bias by dismissing US conservative news sites and injecting stories that were not trending on the social network, according to a follow-up report today.
Now Facebook is addressing the controversy.
“We take allegations of bias very seriously,” reads a Facebook statement sent to Buzzfeed News. “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. The guidelines do not prohibit any news outlet from appearing in Trending Topics.”
It’s important to note that Facebook’s statement doesn’t deny that censorship happened – it just says that it’s not allowed.
Gizmodo’s story claims Facebook curators were told to ‘inject’ stories into Trending Topics, even if they weren’t trending. The story also alleges Facebook allowed editors to pass on stories from conservative outlets, even if they were actually trending on the social network.
“Every once in a while a Red State [a prominent conservative political website] 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,” claimed one anonymous curator.
This latest controversy highlights the unease between Facebook and other media companies. The social network is now a giant, with 1.65 billion active users sharing content with the service.
Facebook wants users to stay engaged with its products as long as possible, but it gets content from outside media firms, which are at the mercy of Facebook’s algorithm.
Facebook also introduced an Instant Articles feature, which loads a stripped down version of a news article optimized for speed. The feature angered many media outlets, as it removes advertising and relinquishes some control to Facebook.
Somewhat ironically, Gizmodo’s story about Facebook alleged censorship can now be seen in the Trending Topics section.