Report: Facebook’s ‘Trending’ News Curators Suppressed Conservative News

May 9, 2016 12:58 p.m.

A former Facebook employee alleges the people tasked with curating Facebook’s “trending” news section suppressed conservative news, creating a “chilling effect,” Gizmodo reported Monday.

The former employee, who spoke to Gizmodo anonymously and identified as politically conservative, alleged that the journalists who choose what displays in the site’s “trending” sidebar—known internally as “news curators”—ignored stories on conservative topics that were trending organically among Facebook users.

“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” the former curator 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.”

Gizmodo had previously reported that stories appearing in Facebook’s “trending” sidebar were chosen by a group of journalists sitting in a room rather than by any algorithm or traffic requirement, although that data was available and could be factored in by the curators.

Troubled by what was perceived as an anti-conservative bias, the former curator kept a running list of trending conservative topics that were omitted from the sidebar and provided that list to Gizmodo. According to the report, those topics included former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused of targeting conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R); Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL and subject of the movie “American Sniper”; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder.

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

That individual also alleged that colleagues wouldn’t display stories from conservative outlets as trending unless they also were reported by mainstream outlets, such as CNN. The curator told Gizmodo that the curators showed a preference for the Black Lives Matter movement, a cause Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously has shown support for.

One other former curator, who also spoke to Gizmodo anonymously, agreed with the first individual’s allegations of anti-conservative bias. The site reported that other former curators “denied consciously suppressing conservative news,” however.

Facebook responded to the allegations in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

“We take allegations of bias very seriously. Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum. Trending Topics shows you the popular topics and hashtags that are being talked about on Facebook. There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality.”

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