Despite Facebook’s claims that their Trending Topics team were not politically biased, a former team member has claimed that the the majority of the team members were liberal and actively discriminated against sites such as Breitbart.
In an interview with Digiday, an anonymous former Trending Topics team member discussed what it was like working for Facebook. The team was accused of being biased towards liberal viewpoints by Gizmodo in May. Facebook apologised for any perceived slights against conservative news networks and even met with representatives from Fox News, The Blaze, and the Media Research Center in an attempt to apologise and assure them that there was no bias against conservative viewpoints.
That was apparently false, as in Digiday’s interview with the former team member claims, “Ninety percent of the team identified as liberal, including the copy editors, who essentially had the final approval on topics.”
“If a source came up that may have been less credible to a liberal reviewer — like Breitbart or another publication like that — it would require more extensive secondary sourcing,” they explained. “However, if there was an article that came from a more liberal-slanted publication, it was essentially given less critique and was a more viable topic from the get-go.”
When initial claims of conservative censorship were brought against Facebook, they performed an internal investigation in which they declared there to be no bias against conservatives. However, according to the anonymous team member, following Gizmodo’s article the Trending Topics team had to drop some of the practices that they had previously employed.
“You couldn’t just inject a topic after the Gizmodo article came out. In the past, we had the ability to inject news topics, but I didn’t see it happen with any sales requests,” they claimed. “The requests we got from them were more like if a topic was already trending, and there was related media or articles, they would request that we add that. But I still felt like that was a break of journalism ethics.”
When asked how they would change the newly automated Trending Topics feature, the former team member suggested removing it entirely. “The topics are just wrong — they have bad articles and insufficient sources,” the source claimed. “I think they are just going to get rid of the product altogether, because there is going to be backlash when people who do use the tool realize that the quality has gone down.”
Facebook eliminated their Trending Topics team last week, claiming they would use an algorithmic model to avoid political bias in which stories trended on the social media platform.
Lucas Nolan is a conservative who regularly contributes articles on censorship and free speech to Breitbart. Follow him on Twitter@LucasNolan_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org