Report: Facebook omitted conservative topics from trending list

Contractors who worked as “curators” for Facebook’s trending topics section, which can bring significant attention to news stories, regularly didn’t include stories trending among political conservatives, according to a Monday report from Gizmodo. 

{mosads}A former curator told Gizmodo that when he or she would log on, they would see that topics popular with conservatives were not included on the list. The contractor, a conservative, speculated that the person running the list “didn’t recognize the news topic” or was biased against a conservative figure involved.

The person said that Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service official who has been a in the crosshairs of Republicans for allegedly targeting conservative groups; the Drudge Report; and Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), who ran for president last year, were among the topics not included on the list.  

The “Trending” section appears on the right side of Facebook’s home page, next to the News Feed. Gizmodo has reported in the past that the topics are selected by human curators based on a Facebook-generated algorithm of the stories being discussed and shared by users.

Another former curator told Gizmodo that if a story originated on a conservative news website, curators would look for a link to the story from a neutral outlet.

Gizmodo reported that it could not determine whether curators took the same steps for stories from liberal news outlets. A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately offer an on-the-record comment.

Curators also told the blog that the people running the “Trending” feature could insert a topic into the list even if it was not among the most-discussed topics on Facebook.

The story is likely to cause a headache for the mammoth social network. Facebook has always insisted that its platform is politically neutral when critics have speculated that it could use its power over the flow of information to influence users.

That claim has come under increased scrutiny in light of two recent stories.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg criticized “fearful voices calling for building walls” in a shot a Donald Trump, now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, during a conference last month.

Gizmodo later reported that a Facebook employee had submitted a question for a discussion with Zuckerberg asking what responsibility the company had to “prevent President Trump in 2017.”

Facebook is already involved in electoral politics, but insists it does so in a neutral way. The company has sponsored lounges at different presidential debates and regularly reminds users to vote. It also does outreach to political campaigns to get them to use the company’s products.

The company has also attracted its fair share of political advertising. A team of employees sells ads to campaigns up and down the ballot as Facebook seeks to capture some of the money poured into political advertising.


–This report was updated at 11:22 a.m.

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