Is Facebook censoring the news that you see in your feed? That’s what a U.S. Senate committee wants to know. The committee claims that Facebook is filtering out conservative news by allowing employees to selectively choose the news that shows up in the ‘trending’ feed.
Further, the committee claims that Facebook employees may be adding stories to the trending list.
A Change to Reply
The committee mentioned above wants Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to answer questions about how news stories are chosen for the social network, and how much manipulation employees have over news stories and trending stories. The problem, the committee claims, is that Facebook would be engaging in deceptive practices if the company is, in fact, manipulating news stories.
Facebook claims that its stories are chosen through a complex news algorithm, which means that hand-choosing stories would be deceptive. Facebook representatives have responded to these claims stating that the company has strict policies regarding trending news stories, and that they have seen the complaint lodged by the republican committee and will look into it.
Facebook is under no obligation to let the Senate committee know how its trending algorithm works or what the magic potion behind the algorithm is. In order to save face in front of users, though, Facebook should (and has) respond to the allegations. The company will likely show users that they are not meddling with news stories or skewing the stories that are shown to lean more towards the left.
While employees do select trending topics, Facebook claims that they have guidelines to follow and must choose topics that are of worldly interest and importance. Neglecting to choose topics that were of a Republican slant would mean that the company is choosing to sway the minds of the general public, which would be a big no-no.
Facebook Follow Up
Right now, Facebook is looking into the allegations and will likely appease the public with knowledge about how these stories are chosen soon enough. The Senate committee mentioned above supposedly read about the possibility of news censorship in a Gizmodo blog post. The post noted that an ex Facebook employee mentioned the news censorship to a Gizmodo journalist.
Gizmodo’s Editor in Chief has told press that the story checks out and is accurate. Right now, it’s up to Facebook to respond to the allegations and to assure the public that they’re not doing anything against their strict code of ethics.
While any publicity is good publicity for any company, this kind of publicity puts doubt in people’s minds. Then again, it also gives Facebook some news coverage, which is something that might be good for a company that’s slowly losing users. There’s likely to be an investigation into these allegations, so you can expect to hear more about how Facebook chooses its trending stories soon enough.
If Facebook is in the spotlight for selecting trending topics, it’s likely that other companies might come under the same fire as well. Stay tuned for more information about this news topic.