A social media outcry sparked after several former Facebook staff members admitted that the social media website was censoring conservative news within its Trending topics.
Former Facebook staff members told the design and technology blog, Gizmodo, that they were encouraged to ignore news from conservative websites until a mainstream liberal site covered the same news.
The former staff members, who requested to remain anonymous, also said that they were also injecting some selected stories into trending news modules despite not being a trend.
Facebook insists that its news selection criteria is based on a number of factors, including engagement, timeliness and trending news that simply shows the “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”
However, the claim caused immediate reaction among the ones who read the report after it circulated on social media websites, including Facebook.
Shortly after the Gizmodo’s claim, many social media users, including journalists and politicians, started a reaction towards the alleged bias view on Facebook.
Republican National Committee Chairman, Reince Priebus, demanded Facebook to answer to allegations that Facebook is not just a neutral pipeline to show topics that have recently become popular.
“Facebook must answer for conservative censorship #MakeThisTrend” Priebus tweeted.
— Reince Priebus (@Reince) May 9, 2016
Glenn Greenwald, a Journalist for The Intercept said that this specific report was prove of Silicon Valley’s influence on media.
“Aside from fuelling right-wing persecution, this is a key reminder of dangers of Silicon Valley controlling content,” tweeted the journalist.
Aside from fueling right-wing persecution, this is a key reminder of dangers of Silicon Valley controlling content https://t.co/BCromK3Wvu
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 9, 2016
On the other hand, there were others on social media that didn’t find it surprising at all.
“Gizmodo expose shows it's impossible for a platform with humans to be neutral on the question of What News Matters.” Senior editor for the Atlantic, Derek Thompson wrote on Twitter.
Gizmodo expose shows it's impossible for a platform with humans to be neutral on the question of What News Matters https://t.co/xNo0LD45QD
— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) May 9, 2016
Facebook spokesperson, Tom Stocky, responded to the allegations and reactions, stating that Facebook took all sorts of reports very seriously, but found “no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true.”
But some did not seem satisfied with Facebook spokesperson’s response to the allegations.
“For anyone who cares about press freedom, this is frightening stuff” wrote Bloomberg’s Tom Grueskin and added: “FB isn't denying the allegation. It's saying, if it happened, it violated our "rigorous guidelines.”
— BGrueskin (@BGrueskin) May 9, 2016