'Blacklisting' of Right-Wing Stories More Proof that Facebook 'Rules the News'
Revelations that Facebook may have regularly “blacklisted” conservative stories from the platform’s “trending” news section was met with outrage on Monday from journalists across the political spectrum who found the company’s alleged abuse of power “disturbing” and potentially dangerous.
After speaking with several former “news curators,” Gizmodo technology editor Michael Nunez reported Monday that the social media platform routinely censored stories “about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.”
The contracted employees also said they were “instructed to artificially ‘inject’ selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all,” and were specifically asked to exclude “news about Facebook itself in the trending module.”
“I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news,” said one former curator, who was kept anonymous but identified by Gizmodo as “politically conservative.”
This practice of “imposing human editorial values,” as Nunez put it, flies in the face of the company’s claim that the section is simply displaying “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”
Indeed, Nunez notes, Facebook’s trending bar “constitutes some of the most powerful real estate on the internet and helps dictate what news Facebook’s users—167 million in the U.S. alone—are reading at any given moment.”
Right-wing media was predictably incensed after the news broke. But for journalists who fall elsewhere on the political spectrum, the revelations were an alarm bell warning against the social media network’s growing power—and desire—to influence.
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“Aside from fueling right-wing persecution, this is a key reminder of dangers of Silicon Valley controlling content,” Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote on Twitter.
Similarly, Guardian national security reporter Spencer Ackermann said, “You don’t have to be a conservative to find this chilling & gross, as Facebook increasingly rules the news business.”
San Jose Mercury News technology columnist Troy Wolverton agreed. “Whatever your political views, this is disturbing. Facebook needs to stop this—or be more transparent about it,” Wolverton wrote.
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