Mark Zuckerberg has gone into full damage control mode to deal with a mounting public relations crisis after it emerged the social network was burying politically conservative news, and promoting stories that they deemed important.
The tech entrepreneur posted a statement on his public Facebook account this morning after the Silicon Valley firm’s staffers told tech blog Gizmodo that the editing process had a “chilling effect on conservative news” and reflected an “absolute bias” against right-wing news sources.
“We take this report very seriously and are conducting a full investigation to ensure our teams upheld the integrity of this product,” Zuckerberg wrote.
News of the political bias is significant because it raises important questions about Facebook’s attempts to influence the outcome of the US election.
At issue is the news module situated in the top right-hand corner of every Facebook user’s homepage. Launched in 2014, the Trending section is seen by up to 1.6 billion people everyday.
Labelled “I want to share some thoughts on the discussion about Trending Topics”, the post is characterised by the type of high-minded and politically correct language West Coast tech entrepreneurs have become famous for.
“We are one global community where anyone can share anything — from a loving photo of a mother and her baby to intellectual analysis of political events,” Zuckerberg claims.
The Facebook chief executive has invited “leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum” to discuss the matter in the coming weeks, to initiate a “direct conversation about what Facebook stands for”.
It comes Facebook yesterday published a 28-page editorial guidelines document for the trending feature in an attempt to quell the backlash.
But the never before seen document highlighted the role of human intervention to shape what users see when they log into the social network.
The revelation confirmed anecdotal evidence from media executives and publishers, showing that Facebook operates like a traditional publisher inside a walled garden rather than an “open platform” for the exchange of ideas, as it likes to assert.
The document also underscores the degree to which Facebook functions as an aggregator, relying heavily on content generated by newspapers, magazines and TV networks, despite the fact it does not pay licensing fees.
It’s another blow to the $US341 billion American giant as it works to combat a sharp decline in people sharing original, personal content.
Users have been less willing to post updates about their lives as people flock to rival service Snapchat, which is using video to sell more advertising.
While no one is writing Facebook off just yet, Snapchat may have unearthed a model that generates higher advertising rates, and more engaging content.
Until recently Snapchat had no revenue model at all but it has caused a sensation in the advertising world with its Discover news platform — a partnership with 11 media groups, including Vice and CNN.
Source: The Australian