Facebook exec: 'No evidence' to support political bias allegations

Facebook exec: 'No evidence' to support political bias allegations

A Facebook executive said early Tuesday morning that the company had found “no evidence” to support allegations that conservative subjects had been kept out of its “Trending” section.

“We take these reports extremely seriously, and have found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true,” said Tom Stocky, the company’ vice president for search, in a post on Facebook.

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His comments followed a Monday morning report from Gizmodo that featured a former Facebook contractor’s allegations that the workers behind the site’s trending news feature had omitted topics and news sources popular with conservative. The list of trending stories is produced by a team of “curators,” according to Gizmodo, who work from a list of topics generated by an algorithm.

The website said on Tuesday it remained confident in its reporting.

“We've carefully reviewed Tom's post, and we appreciate any efforts by Facebook to continue reviewing and improving the guidelines under which the trending news team operates, as he notes,” said Katie Drummond, Gizmodo’s editor-in-chief, in an email. “We stand by our reporting in Monday's piece.”

 

Stocky’s post contained more information on Facebook’s claim that it has guidelines in place for curators that would stop content from being suppressed.

“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,” he said. “At the same time, our reviewers' actions are logged and reviewed, and violating our guidelines is a fireable offense.”

He also denied the charge, included in the Gizmodo story, that the company had improved the ranking of a topic related to the Black Lives Matter movement on the Trending list even though the data did not support it. He called that portion of the story “untrue.”

“We do not insert stories artificially into trending topics, and do not instruct our reviewers to do so,” he said. “Our guidelines do permit reviewers to take steps to make topics more coherent, such as combining related topics into a single event (such as ‪#‎starwars‬ and ‪#‎maythefourthbewithyou‬), to deliver a more integrated experience.”

The Gizmodo reported sparked outrage among conservatives on Monday. It was the lead story for much of the work day on the conservative aggregator Drudge Report, and the Republican National Committee issued a harsh call to action asking supporters to “demand Facebook stop censoring conservatives.”

“With 167 million US Facebook users reading stories highlighted in the trending section, Facebook has the power to greatly influence the presidential election,” read a message on the party’s website. “It is beyond disturbing to learn that this power is being used to silence viewpoints and stories that don't fit someone else's agenda.”