Facebook prides itself on remaining a social media platform where the news is robust and without influence from the staff, not so. When businessman and real-estate tycoon, Donald Trump, announced his candidacy in 2015, many staffers on the social media site asked for a meeting to talk about the coverage of Trump. The conversations escalated at Facebook headquarters after Trump's commitment to build a wall at the U.S. and Mexico border, creating conflict. According to reports, Facebook employees started to exclude stories from conservative outlets, like Fox News, from showing on the popular "Trending Topics" section. A damaging story was published regarding how Facebook employees suppressed conservative stories from the section, and it became more than a rumor--now it is a problem.
These "news curators," Gizmodo reported, purposely left out stories and injected selected stories of their choice into the module. "Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending," said the anonymous employee in an interview with Gizmodo. "This individual asked to remain anonymous, citing fear of retribution from the company. The former curator is politically conservative, one of a very small handful of curators with such views on the trending team." The employee continued: "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."
Since the Gizmodo story, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg started damage control and called for meetings with conservative leaders. "In the coming weeks, I'll also be inviting leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum to talk with me about this and share their points of view. I want to have a direct conversation about what Facebook stands for and how we can be sure our platform stays as open as possible,” Zuckerberg wrote. "The reason I care so much about this is that it gets to the core of everything Facebook is and everything I want it to be. Every tool we build is designed to give more people a voice and bring our global community together. For as long as I'm leading this company this will always be our mission."
Zuckerberg continued to post his thoughts on the discussion regarding the "Trending Topics." He found no reason to believe that the report was true. If it is, the issues will be addressed as Facebook prides itself in giving all people a voice. Conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck and an adviser from Trump's camp are expected to meet Zuckerberg in Silicon Valley.
Zuckerberg is not a fan of Trump, however. Zuckerberg verbally went after Trump for his stance on the refugee situation and Trump's commitment on building the wall at the border. "Instead of building walls, we can help build bridges," Zuckerberg shared at the F8 developer conference. "It takes courage to choose hope over fear--whether we are welcoming a refugee fleeing war or an immigrant seeking opportunity." News outlets were once erroneously perceived to be a source of information without a story being skewed. Journalists were taught to be unbiased no matter what the subject was, or the story was assigned to another staffer. Facebook is not responsible to remain unbiased. Media outlets lean one way or another, even if they claim to remain neutral, none truly are. Facebook is not except from what every outlet does, be it conservative or liberal. Why are people so enraged and shocked? Newspapers have an editorial board who decide the candidate they will endorse. This is the same scenario. So, don't be upset or shocked, this is an old story that will continue, as no one is truly unbiased.
However, if Facebook wants to claim to give all a voice, blocking conservative news and news is not going to help the agenda. The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee feels differently and sent a letter regarding the suppression of conservative news in the "Trending Topics" section. Facebook has until the May 24th to respond, the Kansas City Star reported. "If Facebook presents its "Trending Topics" section as the result of a neutral, objective algorithm, but it is in fact subjective and filtered to support or suppress particular political viewpoints, Facebook's assertion that it maintains a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum misleads the public."
The GOP believes the social media site's liberal bias, especially during election season, could have consequences. The Facebook Help Center defined how stories are picked for FB users: "The stories that show in your news feed are influenced by your connections and activity on Facebook. This helps you to see more stories that interest you from friends you interact with the most. The number of comments and likes a post receives and what kind of story it is can also make it more likely to appear in your news feed." Beck took to Facebook in response to the controversy.
Beck posted on his Facebook page that the meeting with Zuckerberg will be interesting as the CEO looks to provide a voice for everyone in social media. "How does a company who allowed voices to be heard in Iran and Egypt which sparked revolution silence voices of anyone here? I am trying to rearrange my schedule to see if I can make it. It would be interesting to look him in the eye as he explains and a win for all voices if we can come to a place of real trust with this powerful tool. Facebook is, to me, a tool not unlike radio, TV or even the telephone. It is as wide as broadcast but as personal as the telephone. We can connect with one another the world over unlike anything man has ever seen before. These are exciting times for personal freedom, pursuits and identity. If it is to be as ubiquitous as Alexander Graham Bell's invention, it must remain as unbiased as the telephone--otherwise it too will fracture or fall apart over time due to competitors who will carve out their own place without agenda."