A report released Monday morning by Gizmodo caused an uproar among GOP supporters after a former Facebook employee revealed the company’s influential “trending topics” section may have a hidden agenda.
The former employee claimed Facebook intentionally withheld certain stories from the section that pertained to right wing and conservative topics. Several other former members of the Facebook team also claimed that, in addition, they inserted topics into the trending news section that were not actually popular enough to be featured naturally.
Though Facebook higher-ups have denied these allegations, the claim was serious enough to warrant an inquiry from the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation after several notable members of the GOP openly expressed their concerns.
The fact that Facebook may have a political bias is not a shocking revelation, but if they ever want to be considered a valid outlet for news, deciding what is and what isn’t worthy of being seen by their billions of daily users is simply unacceptable.
The “trending topics” section was never intended to function like a traditional online news publication, but they still aggregate real journalistic topics, and therefore have a responsibility to present them in an unbiased and transparent manner.
Even more significant is the fact that Facebook draws in exponentially higher traffic to their site each day compared to actual publications. The Huffington Post garnered around 100 million views each month in 2015, while approximately one billion people log on to Facebook every day, all of whom are able to see the trending news section.
With this many people under the guidance of Facebook’s curated news feed, tampering with that to reflect a certain agenda is highly irresponsible, regardless of which way the bias leans.
Though I have never been a supporter of conservative viewpoints, I still believe it is unjust for a site that presents any type of journalistic qualities to completely ignore the ethical guidelines all journalists must follow.
If these allegations prove true, Facebook has not only been lying to its users by introducing stories into the trending section that were never trending in the first place, they have done a great disservice to the publications that work hard to provide news to the world, only to have their visitors siphoned off by social media sites like Facebook itself.