Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed [a Certain Political Slant] News

One day when I was an undergraduate working for one of two competing student papers, two rallies were held on opposite sides of the downtown mall. One group held signs like “Keep your laws off my body,” and “Keep abortion safe and legal,” and the other group held signs like “It’s a child, not a choice” and “Abortion stops a beating heart.”

The student paper I did not work for ran a story that noted the rallies were about equal in size, and included four direct quotations and one paraphrase from named people who attended the rally on one side of the issue, but merely quoted the signs waved by people on the other side of the issue.

When I tell that story to my journalism students, I add the coda, “If you haven’t made up your mind whether that one-sided story is a good or a bad thing because you are waiting for me to tell you whether the story shares the bias that you hold, then you’re missing the point of a journalism class.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 11.24.46 AMFacebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing—but it is in stark contrast to the company’s claims that the trending module simply lists “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.” —Gizmodo

Update, 2:25pm:

imageThe Facebook news curation story is trending on Twitter, but not Facebook.

7 thoughts on “Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed [a Certain Political Slant] News


    A Facebook spokesperson said the review team follows “rigorous guidelines” established to “ensure consistency and neutrality,” in a statement provided to Morning Consult.

    “These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives. Nor do they permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or one news outlet over another,” the spokesperson added. “These guidelines do not prohibit any news outlet from appearing in Trending Topics.”

  2. and do a better job of clearing up biases inherent in traditional media reportage. I would be really worried if my only news source were an aggregator like Facebook. Too often, media organizations simply repeat the soundbites or quickie press releases put out by politicians and “talking heads.” All this “noise” tends to obfuscate important issues. People even make decisions on how to vote based on these reports. Thank you, Dennis, for holding out for objectivity against a rising tide of (instant) online media mediocrity.

    • I regularly listen to NPR becasue it features the best use of audio, I check Drudge Report daily because it features the best use of the Internet, and I check multiple sources reporting the same story via the Google News aggregator, espeially foreign journalists reporting on the US. I can’t say my own news consumption is free from bias, but I do like to raise the issue when I can.

  3. I wish the young folks knew *back in the day* when the News still reported news, not bias, opinion, and influence.

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