Technology

Facebook rejects political bias charges

Facebook said Monday it rejected a report that staffers omitted trends popular with conservatives from its homepage's "Trending" section.

Facebook said its guidelines for the workers "do not permit the suppression of political perspectives."

"We take allegations of bias very seriously," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum."

The bias charges concern a list of "trending" stories that sits to the right of Facebook's news feed. Workers, who are reportedly contractors and called "curators," comb a list of popular topics and stories on Facebook and enter headlines and summaries into the system.

A Monday morning report from Gizmodo quoted a former curator as saying that colleagues would frequently skip over stories or topics on the list that were popular with conservatives or from right-wing news sources. The former curator is a conservative, Gizmodo reported.

The spokesperson said its rules for the team behind the trending section are meant to protect "consistency and neutrality."

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

Facebook says an algorithm selects all of the sources on the list of trending stories and that the team of curators cannot manually choose content. It also denies that it has a list of blacklisted news outlets.

The controversy touches on questions about Facebook's ability to influence the public through the popularity of its service, which has more than a billion users worldwide.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg made news last month when he criticized "fearful voices calling for building walls," an apparent shot at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. A Facebook employee also reportedly used an internal poll to pose a question to Zuckerberg about whether the company had a responsibility to stop Trump.

The company has also engaged in outreach to Republicans, however, as it looks to capture a share of the political advertising market. The firm will sponsor the Republican convention this summer, as well as its Democratic counterpart, and has been a presence at presidential debates this cycle.

Outbrain
View desktop version