Media Moves

Coverage: Facebook’s news feed is questioned

May 13, 2016

Posted by Chris Roush

The objectivity of Facebook’s news feed has come under question as it’s been reported that employees steered it away from conservative news stories, forcing the social media company into damage control.

Mae Anderson of the Associated Press had the news:

The social media giant on Thursday pulled back the curtain on how its Trending Topics feature works, a reaction to a report in the tech blog Gizmodo that claimed Facebook downplays conservative news subjects. Facebook denies that report, which relied upon a single anonymous individual with self-described conservative leanings.

In its own blog post , the company said a series of checks and balances – involving both software formulas and humans – ensures that stories displayed in the “trending topics” section aren’t biased. The post linked to a 28-page internal document Facebook uses to determine trending topics, after the Guardian published a similar document that was leaked to it.

Justin Osofsky, vice president of global operations, said the guidelines ensure that stories in trending topics represent “the most important popular stories, regardless of where they fall on the ideological spectrum.”

Mike Isaac of the New York Times explained how Facebook’s algorithms work to find the news people want on their feeds:

While algorithms determine the exact mix of topics displayed to each person, based on that user’s past actions on Facebook, a team of people is largely responsible for the overall mix of which topics should — and more important, should not — be shown in Trending Topics.

For instance, after algorithms detect early signs of popular stories on the network, editors are asked to cross-reference potential trending topics with a list of 10 major news publications, including CNN, Fox News, The Guardian and The New York Times.

Editors are also entrusted to spot potentially large news stories bubbling up outside Facebook by using an algorithm that trawls more than a thousand automated feeds, up to and including competitors like YouTube and Reddit, along with traditional news sites.

Ben Guarino of The Washington Post reports that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg plans to meet with conservative leaders:

There are no details yet about whom Zuckerberg might meet, and Facebook was unable to respond immediately to an inquiry from The Washington Post. “Facebook stands for giving everyone a voice,” Zuckerberg wrote Thursday night. “We believe the world is better when people from different backgrounds and with different ideas all have the power to share their thoughts and experiences.”

Zuckerberg, who recently decried the “fearful voices calling for building walls,” would only have to travel as far as a Facebook board room to mingle with different viewpoints. Peter Thiel, a billionaire venture capitalist and Facebook’s first investor, will be a California delegate for Donald Trump.

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