Last May there were allegations made that Facebook was biased against conservative views in its ‘Trending Stories’ feature. Facebook, while denying that there was any anti-conservative bias in how it selected topics pledged to improve the feature.
"Suppressing political content or preventing people from seeing what matters most to them is directly contrary to our mission and our business objectives, and the allegations troubled us deeply." — Colin Stretch – Facebook general counsel
Mark Zuckerberg meets with conservatives
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a meeting with a group of conservative commentators to gather their feedback and explain Facebook’s process to avoid bias. Following the meeting, Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook has a problem in getting their message out to conservatives.
"I know many conservatives don’t trust that our platform surfaces content without a political bias. I wanted to hear their concerns personally and have an open conversation about how we can build trust. I want to do everything I can to make sure our teams uphold the integrity of our products." — Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook CEO
In response to the meeting, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute that Facebook was planning to organize internal classes to enable employees to focus on “identifying and neutralizing racial, age, gender and other types of bias.”
New look for Trending Stories section introduced
Last week Facebook introduced a new look for its “Trending Stories” section. Previously Facebook had used human editors to create a short summary of the story, but that process was reportedly replaced by one that relied on computer-generated algorithms to determine what news was trending. As part of the move, Facebook announced that 26 employees who had been responsible for creating the human summaries of the trending stories had been terminated. The company told users that there would still be human beings involved in the process to ensure quality.
Link to fake story about Megyn Kelly
All seemed well and good until Sunday evening when the new Trending Stories section posted a link to a fake article about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly that read, “Fox News Exposes Traitor Megyn Kelly, Kicks Her Out For Backing Hillary.” The story was completely false but generated some 200,000 likes before Facebook removed the story.
The Kelly story notwithstanding, what remains notable is that Facebook took the complaints of bias in how it selects articles and features seriously. The company is still working to find the right balance between human readers and algorithms but appears committed to ensuring that it has no conservative or liberal bias in its features.