Following a report that accused Facebook of suppressing online stories targeted toward conservative readers under its “trending” news section, CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with conservative commentators. Is Facebook showing political bias?
( David Ramos | Getty Images )
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently acknowledged that the social media company is having problems reaching conservatives.
On Wednesday, May 18, Zuckerberg met with conservative commentators after a report suggested that Facebook is suppressing online stories targeted toward conservative readers under its “trending” news section.
The meeting took place at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. While the meeting was off-limits to the press, Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post that both sides – Republicans and conservatives – are integral parts of the company.
He added that presidential candidate Donald Trump has the most number of Facebook fans compared to other candidates in the presidential race.
“Still, I know many conservatives don’t trust that our platform surfaces content without a political bias. I wanted to hear their concerns personally and have an open conversation about how we can build trust,” wrote Zuckerberg on Facebook.
In the company’s initial statement, Facebook said that in a technical sense, content reviewers cannot possibly manipulate the internal Trending Topics algorithms’ results.
But later on, when the company released its Trending Review Guidelines [PDF], the issue is placed under a new light.
Based on the released document, some unspecified topics are, at times, previously “blacklisted” or are not popping up because of a bug.
Moreover, the document revealed instructions to human editors to find “any newsworthy topics that aren’t showing up in the review tool,” suggesting that they can look for topics other than what the algorithms suggest.
There were several conservative groups who declined the meeting invitation from Facebook, including leaders from the American Conservative Union (ACU) and conservative site Breitbart.com.
In a statement, ACU said the social media company and its CEO are “drawing the wrong conclusions” from the conservatives’ negative reaction.
“It appears that they believe they can avoid having to answer for their actions by hosting conservative luminaries at their state-of-the-art headquarters,” stated ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp in a press release.
With approximately 167 million Facebook users in the United States, the trending news section is deemed a powerful and highly influential platform, especially with the November U.S. presidential elections just around the corner.