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Facebook Social Networks Politics

Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News (gizmodo.com) 639

Michael Nunez, reporting for Gizmodo: Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network's influential "trending" news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site's users. 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." The revelation comes amid a report on the same publication which claimed that a small group of journalists controlled and decided what should trend on Facebook. Also recently, a leaked screenshot revealed Facebook employees asking whether they should do something to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the president.
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Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News

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  • by The Last Gunslinger ( 827632 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @10:33AM (#52075797)
    res ipsa loquitur
    • Yeah, I don't think there is such a thing as a truly unbiased media platform and people will like the ones that support their beliefs and complain about the ones that don't. The worst case scenario being finding yourself working for an organisation that's on the other side.

      • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @10:52AM (#52076003)

        The big story here is that facebook wants to become the *only* way you get your news. No news outlet really was built with that goal in mind, they all are just "newspapers".

        I have disliked this thought from the day I've heard it, and this is just more proof to why it is a bad idea for me as an user to use this service. It might be a good idea for facebook, obviously mark zuckerberg became really rich with that.

        Its the same story as selling junk food it seems. Bad for the customer but good for the seller.

    • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @11:52AM (#52076585)

      This is just journalism majors being journalism majors. It's why we can't get decent coverage of science stories.

  • Conservatives at least claim to be for smaller government, which could be a direct threat to Facebook, since they are a CIA operation [youtube.com] after all...
    • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @11:51AM (#52076575)

      At least in the US, conservatives stand for small government. Except on the issue of abortion, and sex education, and recreational substances, and national security, and pornography, and broadcast indecency, and regulation of marriage. Oh, and they insist the government has a duty to issue non-binding religious proclamations telling the people who and how they are supposed to worship and erect tax-funded monuments to their deity. And regulate who is allowed to use which restroom. But aside from all that, they stand for small government.

  • Conservative? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @10:34AM (#52075813) Homepage Journal
    The GOP is not Conservative at all. They like to spend as much as the Democrats do. People need to find a better label for the Republicrats.
    • Re:Conservative? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @10:59AM (#52076067)

      Conservative does not mean libertarian. There was a time when embracing some libertarian ideas seemed like a good way to pursue a conservative agenda, but that is no longer the case: (1) Since older people are disproportionately conservative, they need to keep this base happy by keeping benefits to the elderly flowing. Not a "small government" principle at all. Yet until Obama, George Bush had the record for largest expansion of Medicare ever. (2) Since society started to move to embrace social movements unpopular among conservatives, they had to use the federal government to try and stomp this out - see the "defense of marriage act" as one example. (3) It's hardly a new phenomenon, but the Republicans and Democrats have both competed vigorously for the support for the richest people in the US. This has led to lower taxes without corresponding cuts in spending. So we no longer borrow for infrastructure spending, but we need loans simply to cover day-to-day operations. It's not hurting us right now, but eventually rates will go up and we'll feel that debt burden. Or rather, our children will.

      The sad fact is that neither party in the US stands for responsible or sustainable fiscal policy anymore. And arguably, "conservatives" even less so given their inability to compromise on taxes or on entitlement programs.

  • Conservatism is suppressed because it is a threat to the dominant paradigm. If it cannot be suppressed, terms are re-defined so that they exclude meanings which could be conservative. Most people go along with this, because actual conservative reasoning -- not the watered down liberal hybrid presented by characters such as disguised Zodiac Killer Ted Cruz -- does not flatter the human ego. It requires instead recognition of the smallness of the self, and this offends most people.
  • Of course, it would be easy to "blame the victim" here and say that, since at least the more libertarian and/or corporatist conservatives see nothing wrong with unregulated near-monopolies then they deserve whatever suppression of their ideology they get....

    • Yeah facebook building this restricted version of the internet means that they have full control over what happens on it, including which news reach the people, and which don't. This is part of why facebook is so valuable. Facebook stock would drop if this practice would be banned.

      • Facebook continues to remain just like AOL of old.

        Walled gardens are for children...wear a write protect tab.

        I for one loved AOL and love Facebook. Never used ether.

  • by CajunArson ( 465943 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @10:37AM (#52075845) Journal

    When Zuckerberg is running the show and agrees with your lefty political positions, all of the sudden Corporations have rights and should be allowed to run the elections as long as they support the "correct" positions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Microlith ( 54737 )

      Oh look, someone stuffing words into the mouths of others!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by DogDude ( 805747 )
      When Zuckerberg is running the show and agrees with your lefty political positions, all of the sudden Corporations have rights and should be allowed to run the elections as long as they support the "correct" positions.

      You saying this doesn't make it true. I don't know of anybody suggesting that corporations should have "rights" or should "run the elections" other than the super wealthy and the non-wealthy dullards who support them.
  • Despicable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sir_Eptishous ( 873977 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @10:38AM (#52075853) Homepage
    My politics usually fall on the liberal side, but this is really disgusts me.

    "Trending News"?
    Really? More like FB propaganda.
    The sad thing are the millions who get their "news" from FB.
    FB has the monopoly, and it using it well.
    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      "Trending News"?
      Really? More like FB propaganda.

      That's why whenever I see something on FB that is propaganda and/or pure marketing I tag it as offensive/sexually explicit.

      I have no idea if that actually dos anything, but it does make me feel good.

    • Re:Despicable (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @11:02AM (#52076101)

      How in the world can you say that Facebook has a monopoly? Just close your account and stop using it - no "service" that it provides cannot be gotten elsewhere. "Events" can be sent with Evite, messages with dozens of different competitors. I have many friends who are not on Facebook and they get along just fine. The only "monopoly" they hold is over the content on their own website, and that's true of all other websites as well.

      • If you need it explained to you then you haven't been paying attention.
        Really all it takes is some critical thinking, listening to what FB users say regarding news, current events, politics, etc.

        I don't have a FB account, but I know a lot of people who do, and I have poked around on other peoples accounts, so I know what it looks like, how its setup, privacy settings(which I've helped people with...), etc.
        I have no account to close.

        What I do have is an understanding about human nature, and that pe
        • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @12:32PM (#52076975)

          Okay, so now that you've accused me of not paying attention, lack of critical thinking, and not listening, would you like to try to prove your assertion that Facebook has a monopoly over something? As far as I can tell, they only have a monopoly over Facebook. Which is to say, no monopoly.

  • I don't have a problem with them doing it. I DO have a problem with them lying about doing it.

    We get enough lies and deceit from conservative sources as it is. It's basically par for the course, at this point. I have much higher expectation from supposedly left-leaning organizations.

  • Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @10:45AM (#52075931)

    So does google. Every day all the time. No one is surprised.

    Honestly, we're past this. Facebook et al. provide the romper room world view preferred by the low information crowd and and the rest of us found suitable alternatives long ago.

  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @11:00AM (#52076081)

    Zuckerberg is a leftist. He openly supports the Democrats. Now i don't have a problem with that but here's the problem: I think that a lot of people that get their news from Facebook truly believe it is unfiltered and crowd-sourced. If this allegation is true then it shows us that Facebook is no better or no worse than all the other news agencies.

    Everyone - be it Fox News or the NY Times, or CNN - is selling an agenda. They choose the news they report and all of them put their own political spin on it to advance that agenda. The line between hard news and political commentary is blurred and has been for some time. I believe that the only way to get the real story is to view it from both a right wing and a left wing perspective. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.

    Nothing that Facebook does surprises me in the least. It's one of the reasons I don't use it. I don't trust them. Not with my personal information and not with news feeds either.

  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @11:19AM (#52076277)

    Did they suppress news about Bernie Sanders? Because he was ignored wholesale by the media.

    Sanders won nearly every poll, and yet the media claims Hillary won, even when the poll on their own pages show Sanders winning by a mile.

  • by bbsguru ( 586178 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @12:05PM (#52076733) Homepage Journal
    The only reason this is the least bit interesting is that there are so many people who consider Facebook a primary news source.
    This Pew Research poll of last summer [niemanlab.org] shows 63% of FB users get their news there (up from 47% two years ago).

    ANYBODY who gets their news from only one source simply doesn't care whether it's true.

    And we all know what they say about news without truth, right?

    It gets repeated...

  • by mlw4428 ( 1029576 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @12:06PM (#52076739)
    "Another former curator agreed that the operation had an aversion to right-wing news sources. “It was absolutely bias. We were doing it subjectively. It just depends on who the curator is and what time of day it is,” said the former curator. “Every once in awhile a Red State 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.”"

    Ah, so they were censoring sources that were known to be bastions of conservative misinformation. Ah yes, beat the drums.One guy said "THEY WUZ CENSORSING MURICAN PINIONS" and a moderate said "Eh, what we really did was remove sources that we thought were overly biased and replaced with a more neutral source."

    Oh my god, my moral barometer is shifting with the moon phases and you can't explain that. I'm just OUTRAGED. Liburaldumcrats are RAPING my ECHO CHAMBER BY NOT SPREADING MISINFORMATION!
    • "Another former curator agreed that the operation had an aversion to right-wing news sources. “It was absolutely bias. We were doing it subjectively. It just depends on who the curator is and what time of day it is,” said the former curator. “Every once in awhile a Red State 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.”"

      Sounds like the informer thinks every Red State story should automatically be flagged as trending on Facebook. Until we get some actual evidence, I'm going to treat this as another IRS non-scandal invented to "prove" that everyone is persecuting conservatives.

      Like the "liberal" media who gave Trump free airtime in the middle of their next day's coverage of the first Democratic debate.

      Anyone got screenshots of what has actually been trending on FB during the last few days?

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