Updated: Facebook late last night has responded to the charge of manipulating trend results.
The accusation reported by Gizmodo.com: Facebook “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project.” The response was provided by Facebook’s “Vice President of Search.”
The accusation goes beyond suppression of conservative views as curators of the Facebook “trending module” were told not to include news about Facebook itself according to a Gizmodo.com story.
In the responding story posted on Techcrunch.com here: “Facebook has ‘found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true’ wrote VP of search Tom Stocky on the social network tonight at 9:30pm pacific May 9th, regarding a Gizmodo report from sources who said they were formerly on the team that chose what Trends appeared on Facebook’s site.”
“Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to systematically discriminate against sources of any ideological origin and we’ve designed our tools to make that technically not feasible. At the same time, our reviewers’ actions are logged and reviewed, and violating our guidelines is a fireable offense.” the response noted.
Managers on the trending news team according to the Gizmodo.com “explicitly instruct curators to artificially manipulate the trending module… When users weren’t reading stories that management viewed as important, several former workers said, curators were told to put them in the trending news feed anyway. Several former curators described using something called an ‘injection tool’ to push topics into the trending module that weren’t organically being shared or discussed enough to warrant inclusion—putting the headlines in front of thousands of readers rather than allowing stories to surface on their own. In some cases, after a topic was injected, it actually became the number one trending news topic on Facebook.”
One curator told Gizmodo.com, “Facebook got a lot of pressure about not having a trending topic for Black Lives Matter. They realized it was a problem, and they boosted it in the ordering. They gave it preference over other topics. When we injected it, everyone started saying, ‘Yeah, now I’m seeing it as number one’.”
This particular injection is especially noteworthy because the #BlackLivesMatter movement originated on Facebook, and the ensuing media coverage of the movement often noted its powerful social media presence.
Facebook’s earlier statement about having neutrality guidelines left it unclear whether any contractors hired to curate the trend had potentially violated those rules. But now Stocky’s statement bluntly calls into question the allegations by Gizmodo’s sources.
So who do you think is lying? Your perspectives welcome below.