01:18 GMT10 August 2020
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    A former “curator” for Facebook’s trending topics section has detailed how conservative news stories would often be prevented from making the coveted top-stories list on the social media platform.

    Speaking anonymously to Gizmodo, for fear of retribution from Facebook, the former curator and journalist, who claims to be a conservative, noted specifically that stories about topics including the CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, or Rand Paul were frequently prevented from making the list.

    “Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” the former employee told Gizmodo. “I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was, like, they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”

    Facebook has publicly maintained that they are politically neutral.

    “I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news,” the former curator asserted.

    Additionally, according to the former employee, if a popular story originated on a right-wing news site such as Red State, and it was chosen to be promoted, a neutral website running the story would be linked.

    “It was absolutely bias. We were doing it subjectively. It just depends on who the curator is and what time of day it is,” they explained. “Every once in awhile a Red State or conservative news source would have a story. But we would have to go and find the same story from a more neutral outlet that wasn’t as biased.”

    Facebook employees were not only suppressing stories, according to the source, they were also encouraged to use an “injection tool” to manually insert trending topics that were not resulting in enough discussion. This would often result in a story artificially being a top-trending item.

    “We were told that if we saw something, a news story that was on the front page of these ten sites, like CNN, the New York Times, and BBC, then we could inject the topic,” said one former curator. “If it looked like it had enough news sites covering the story, we could inject it—even if it wasn’t naturally trending.”

    This was done especially in the case of breaking news, as Facebook has struggled to keep up with Twitter.

    “We would get yelled at if it was all over Twitter and not on Facebook,” another former curator told the tech website.

    This was also true for hashtags, specifically, Black Lives Matter, a movement CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally endorsed in February.

    “Facebook got a lot of pressure about not having a trending topic for Black Lives Matter,” the individual said. “They realized it was a problem, and they boosted it in the ordering. They gave it preference over other topics. When we injected it, everyone started saying, ‘Yeah, now I’m seeing it as number one’.”

    These allegations are particularly chilling in light of Zuckerberg’s public criticism of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump last month, as well as reports that a Facebook employee had submitted a question for a discussion with the CEO last month asking what responsibility the company had to “prevent President Trump in 2017.”


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