Facebook has been forced to deny political bias after former employees stepped forward to allege that the social media platform routinely fiddled with ‘trending’ topics to demote ‘conservative news’.
The alleged bias against right-wing news sources was reported by Gizmodo after being told by whistleblowers that the policy was having a ‘chilling effect’ on its news feed and was symptomatic of ‘absolute bias’.
At the heart of the claims is the ‘trending’ section on Facebook’s home page which many assumed represented an objective summary of what Facebook users happen to be sharing and reading at any given moment.
In practice however this content is filtered by ‘news curators’ who have the final say on popular topics as generated by Facebook’s algorithms, with stories about Facebook itself amongst the first to be removed.
More than this though some stories which did not tally with the world view of the creators could also be removed as one former curator, who described himself as leaning to the right, said: “Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending.”
Amongst stories which were allegedly expunged were reports on former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and content relating to murdered former US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.
Stats published by NewsWhip show that right-wing news site Breitbart was the 10th most shared site globally on Facebook in January, behind the BBC, CNN and CBS News. Although many Gizmodo contests that many of these items were ignored until picked up by mainstream outlets.