Facebook Investigates Allegations Of Censorship
Amid allegations that Facebook censored news reports with conservative viewpoints, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has said the company is investigating the claims.
The statement by Zuckerberg has come after a week of allegations in the media and discussion on the issue in the US Senate.
Mr Zuckerberg said Facebook had found no evidence that the allegations were correct.
“Facebook stands for giving everyone a voice,” he wrote in a post.
“This week, there was a report suggesting that Facebook contractors working on Trending Topics suppressed stories with conservative viewpoints. We take this report very seriously and are conducting a full investigation to ensure our teams upheld the integrity of this product.”
The tech news website Gizmodo had said that the company had replaced conservative topics from the site’s “trending” news section and “injected” others.
Even though he denied the allegations, Zuckerberg said that if any evidence of “anything against our principles” was discovered, then
“you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it”.
Mr Zuckerberg also said that he was extending an invitation to leading conservatives to meet him to discuss their views.
Facebook Staff ‘Tampered’ With Trending News
Gizmodo had alleged that Facebook staff had tampered with trending topic stories. The website said that the staff was instructed to include stories published by the BBC, CNN and other mainstream news organisations, ahead of the news by smaller, and lesser known news sites.
Gizmodo alleged that Facebook was running the trending topics section like a newsroom, with the curators able to “blacklist” or “inject” topics.
The website also said that Blacklist tools were only used where a story did not relate to something that actually happened, or where a story was duplicated.
The Guardian Report
Gizmodo followed the report by a release of documents to The Guardian.
The documents showed editorial decision-making by Facebook staff, alongside the company’s algorithm, to determine what which news was trending.
The documents also revealed that stories taken from mainstream news organisations by the editorial team were called “external” topics and were gathered via feeds from 1,000 media sources.
The sources include BBC, Reuters and many national newspapers.
The criteria for deciding if the story was of “national” importance required that it should be the leading news on at least five of 10 websites: the BBC, CNN, Fox News, The Guardian, NBC, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Yahoo News or Yahoo.
Facebook Faces Scrutiny
Facebook has now come under a lot of pressure to make all its processes more transparent, even before the release of documents to The Guardian.
Republican Senator John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, asked if the company was leading the public astray about its news features.
“Social networks such as Facebook are an increasingly important source of news for many Americans and people around the world,” he said.