Immediately following the November 2020 Election, Facebook suppressed what it considers “hyperpartisan” news pages, including Breitbart News, while promoting what it considers “authoritative” news pages such as CNN, according to the New York Times.
As reported by the Times, Facebook did this buy adjusting its secret “quality score” for publishers to promote certain publishers and to downrank others on the Facebook news feed, the mix of news items and posts from friends and other accounts that greets users when they log on to the platform.
Facebook employees reportedly:
…proposed an emergency change to the site’s news feed algorithm, which helps determine what more than two billion people see every day. It involved emphasizing the importance of what Facebook calls “news ecosystem quality” scores, or N.E.Q., a secret internal ranking it assigns to news publishers based on signals about the quality of their journalism.
Typically, N.E.Q. scores play a minor role in determining what appears on users’ feeds. But several days after the election, Mr. Zuckerberg agreed to increase the weight that Facebook’s algorithm gave to N.E.Q. scores to make sure authoritative news appeared more prominently, said three people with knowledge of the decision, who were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.
The pretext, according to the Times, was the spread of “election-related misinformation” in the days after the election. However, incredibly, the suppression was not apparently based on post-election content published. The move was tantamount to what in a legal First Amendment context would be considered an illegal prior restraint of speech.
On a call with reporters, a Facebook executive said the change was temporary, although they did not indicate for how long.
According to the Times’ report, some Facebook employees want the suppression of Breitbart News to become permanent. The employees reportedly asked for the “nicer news feed,” one suppressing Breitbart News and boosting CNN, to be the new normal — regardless of how the site’s users react.
Guy Rosen, a Facebook executive who oversees the integrity division that is in charge of cleaning up the platform, said on a call with reporters last week that the changes were always meant to be temporary. “There has never been a plan to make these permanent,” he said. John Hegeman, who oversees the news feed, said in an interview that while Facebook might roll back these experiments, it would study and learn from them.
Breitbart News has reached out to Facebook for comment.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. His new book, #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election, which contains exclusive interviews with sources inside Google, Facebook, and other tech companies, is currently available for purchase.