(Image: Deccan Chronicle)
After establishing itself as a major platform of viral news, Facebook has recently come under flak for allegedly filtering ‘conservative’ news from their trending section.
A report by Gadgetshere published on May 3, states that Facebook appointed a dozen or so journalists to ‘train’ the algorithm of its ‘trending news’ section. However, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has gone on record saying that the trending news section followed a neutral and objective algorithm.
Another follow up report, published May 9, said the subjective bias of the dozen appointed Journalists did creep in. Even though Facebook didn’t explicitly supress conservative content, the journalists, all in their 20s and 30s, had the discretion to gun down content they either didn’t recognize or didn’t agree with. Right-wing news in the US took the most damage, as it was found from a former team member that reports on Mitt Romney and CPAC or Glen Beck wouldn’t be trending, even though it was being shared heavily by the netizens of the most popular social network.
A day after the report, South Dakota Senator John Thune demanded an explanation from Mark Zuckerberg. In a letter addressed to him, he requested information on who made the decisions regarding which stories to trend on the website, how are the employees trained and whether the company is investigating the allegation and what steps is it likely to take to hold people responsible.
But, on May 13, Zuckerberg, on his Facebook Wall denied all allegations of in-house bias. “Facebook stands for giving everyone a voice. We believe the world is better when people from different backgrounds and with different ideas all have the power to share their thoughts and experiences. That’s what makes social media unique. We are one global community where anyone can share anything — from a loving photo of a mother and her baby to intellectual analysis of political events,” he wrote.
He maintained that his site follows “rigorous guidelines that do not permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or the suppression of political perspectives.” He has also agreed to launch an investigation to ensure the integrity of his ‘trending news’ section. In the end of his post, Zuckerberg has sent out an invite to “leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum” for a conversation.
This week, some 12 “conservative thought leaders” will meet Zuckerberg to discuss the allegations. Among those invited are Fox News Channel’s Dana Perino and Zac Moffatt and media personality Glenn Beck.
Facebook presents it Trending News Section as an objective and neutral algorithm, but if in fact, found that subjective filtering was being done to the section, it will indeed be very damaging to the integrity of the platform. The social network had been at the helm of revolutionizing how news should be consumed by maintaining a stranglehold over the traffic pipeline through its “Facebook Instant Articles” and “Facebook Live Videos”. All this, and more, is at stake for the networking giant, if proven guilty.