Anonymous sources at Facebook’s news team have confirmed to Gizmodo that, in addition to suppressing conservative news sources, the company suppresses stories about itself while artificially promoting stories about the Black Lives Matter movement.
This is the latest in the story of Facebook’s politically biased “trending” section, which we initially reported on last week. The anonymous source told Gizmodo that stories from conservative news sources like Breitbart were regularly suppressed by the company.
New details emerged today, with the anonymous employee revealing to Gizmodo that stories about Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, CPAC, and other conservative topics were prevented from reaching Facebook’s “trending” category. Furthermore, stories about progressive movements like Black Lives Matter were artificially promoted by the company.
According to Gizmodo, the source kept a list of stories that were “deep sixed,” or prevented from trending on Facebook. They include a laundry list of topics of interest to conservatives.
Among the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder.
Gizmodo explains that, far from reflecting the interests of the social network’s users, the site’s “trending” list instead reflects the biases of its news team.
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.”
In other words, Facebook’s role in the dissemination of news is beginning to resemble that of the Old Media gatekeepers the company initially claimed to be “disrupting.” Like MSNBC or CNN, Facebook is going to feed its users information from the top down, mediated by its employees’ own political prejudices — just as I predicted it would last month.
In addition to suppressing stories, Gizmodo’s sources also confirmed that they were also directed to “inject” certain stories into the trending list even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion. Unsurprisingly, these included stories about Black Lives Matter, a movement that Mark Zuckerberg has personally defended from internal critics at the company.
Facebook got a lot of pressure about not having a trending topic for Black Lives Matter,” the individual said. “They realized it was a problem, and they boosted it in the ordering. They gave it preference over other topics. When we injected it, everyone started saying, ‘Yeah, now I’m seeing it as number one’.” This particular injection is especially noteworthy because the #BlackLivesMatter movement originated on Facebook, and the ensuing media coverage of the movement often noted its powerful social media presence.
The company also instructs its curators to avoid promoting stories about Facebook itself — a useful barrier against articles that could make the company look bad.
“When it was a story about the company, we were told not to touch it,” said one former curator. “It had to be cleared through several channels, even if it was being shared quite a bit. We were told that we should not be putting it on the trending tool.”
Something tells me this article won’t be appearing on Facebook’s trending list anytime soon.
Despite Facebook curators actively suppressing articles from Breitbart News, it is still the 15th largest publisher in the world for Facebook engagement, #12 in the world for Facebook shares of its stories, and #10 in the world for Facebook comments. It begs the question how much bigger Breitbart News’ reach would be if Facebook employees were not intentionally holding back Breitbart’s exposure on the social media platform.
Breitbart News issued an official statement in reaction to these latest revelations:
Breitbart News has remained in the top 25 Facebook publishers for six months in a row, despite the new reports confirming what conservatives have long suspected: Facebook’s trending news artificially mutes conservatives and amplifies progressives.
Facebook claims its algorithm simply populates “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook” in its trending news section, but now we know that’s not true.
In a spirit of transparency and community, we invite Mark Zuckerberg to do a Facebook Live interview with Breitbart News Tech Editor Milo Yiannopoulos to explain to the tens of millions of conservatives on Facebook why they’re being discriminated against.
Breitbart Tech has long warned that despite their outward commitments to political neutrality, hyper-progressive Silicon Valley companies like Facebook would inevitably imprint their own biases on the flow of information. It seems those warnings were not amiss.