More evidence shows Facebook discriminates against conservative news.
Former Facebook employees have told Gizmodo that the company regularly told them to stamp out conservative news even if it trended on the website.
Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all. The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module.
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.”
“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” stated the former employee, who identifies as a conservative. “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.”
Notes from the curator showed Facebook shut down these six stories:
former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder.
They even found that Facebook did not include popular conservative sites like Breitbart or Washington Examiner unless the New York Times or CNN also reported the story.
Gizmodo could not find “evidence that Facebook management mandated or was even aware of any political bias at work.” They do not know if the website treated liberal news the same way. Other employees denied the practice occurred.
However, the former employee said the bosses received pressure to trend Black Lives Matter. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter began on Facebook.
“Facebook got a lot of pressure about not having a trending topic for Black Lives Matter,” explained the former curator. “They realized it was a problem, and they boosted it in the ordering. They gave it preference over other topics. When we injected it, everyone started saying, ‘Yeah, now I’m seeing it as number one’.”
Facebook hired journalists as contractors to help run their news section in January 2014. Those in charge pushed the journalists to the “basement of the company’s New York office.”
“It was degrading as a human being,” described one former curator. “We weren’t treated as individuals. We were treated in this robot way.”
Another former curator said the company kept them in that room for two-and-a-half months.
“It was clear that Zuckerberg could squash the project at any moment,” said the journalist.