Many times was Facebook’s algorithm blamed for messing with what posts have priority in News Feed, but now the outcry has become nationwide.
Consequently, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, has agreed to meet with some of the conservative leaders and other “people from across the political spectrum” over the next few weeks.
The young leader’s announcement came on Thursday night, after multiple allegations that the social media giant deliberately overlooked conservative viewpoints when it came to highlighting them in its trending news section.
For those unfamiliar with Facebook’s current interface, there’s a small rectangle of curated topics situated on the right side of the news feed on desktop computers, and below the search bar on the mobile app.
According to a report on Gizmodo on Monday morning, the social network had allegedly “blacklisted” certain topics from the trending news section. Their claims were based on the statements of an unnamed source, a former curator at Facebook.
The swift backlash was understandable – from concerned users to conservative leaders. The Republican National Committee declared on his blog post that the social giant “must answer for its conservative censorship.”
Similarly, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) asked Zuckerberg in a letter to explain what exactly goes on behind the stage of the Trending Topics section. This is, however, not the first time Facebook was accused of shady dealings.
In response to previous accusations, the social network explained that its trending news module was almost entirely based on the work of algorithms. But even though algorithms are supposed to be objective, the code will still reflect – intentional or not – human bias.
But on Thursday, Facebook decided to elaborate on the subject and explained that humans do play a role in selecting Trending Topics. The algorithm simply “surfaces” potential news, and human curators take over to combine related topics into one item.
At the same time, these curators also have the job of weeding out certain non-newsworthy content that could be trending. For example, Facebook explained that #lunch would make it into the trending section every day, at various global lunchtimes, but it doesn’t mean you will see it daily.
Seeing that Facebook boasts 1.6 billion members, it cannot afford to let human input influence its trending section. “We have found no evidence that this report is true,” Zuckerberg said on Thursday.
“We have rigorous guidelines that do not permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or the suppression of political perspectives,” he added.
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