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Facebook tendencies: Zuckerberg invites top conservatives to talk and denies bias

As Facebook battles a report accusing it of suppressing conservative news, CEO says he plans to invite leading conservatives … to share their point of view

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that he plans to invite leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum to talk with him about accusations of political bias at the social media company.

Zuckerberg attained the proclamation Thursday evening in a Facebook post that continued to deny the allegations of bias and the claim that the Facebook trending topics team repress conservative news.

We have found no evidence that this report is true, he wrote. If we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it.

On Monday, Gizmodo reported that contracted employees at Facebook routinely repressed news tales of interest to conservative readers and artificially inject tales into the trending topics segment, citing anonymous former news curators.

Zuckerbergs statement is a sign of how damaging the allegations are to a company that, despite serving as a news source for millions of people, maintains that it is a neutral tech company.

On Tuesday, Facebooks vice-president for search, Tom Stocky, addressed the controversy in a post of his own, denying allegations of bias and penning: We do not insert narratives artificially into trending topics, and do not instruct our reviewers to do so.

But early on Thursday, the Guardian obtained Facebooks internal guidelines for the trending topics section that contradicted Stockys statement. The documents include instructions for how curators can inject or blacklist topics in the trending topics.

The editorial team CAN[ sic] inject a newsworthy topic in the event that something is attracting a lot of attention, such as #BlackLivesMatter, the guidelines state.

Facebooks vice-president for global operations, Justin Osofsky, subsequently wrote his own blogpost about the editorial guidelines which were released and specified that many topics are rejected because they reflect what is considered noise.

Zuckerbergs statement the third dispatch from a company executive in just four days did not address the question of Facebooks editorial practises, but instead focused on the question of political bias against conservative standpoints.

Conservative media have doubled down on those accusations of bias against Facebook in the wake of revelations by the Guardian on the companys news strategy.

They market it as this organic collecting of things that are trending, told Sean Davis, co-founder of popular conservative site the Federalist.

They are walling off huge areas people are talking about. Thats the real problem. Were generally for free association, for private enterprise. If their investors like it, were free to criticize it and theyre free to do what they want. The beef from conservatives has not been that theres bias, its been that theres not admission of it.

Facebook relies on a list of 10 top news sources, including the Guardian, for most of its decisions about whether a subject satisfies the criteria to join its trending news module. Below that is a list of other sources that can be used that totals 1,000. The Federalist is not on the list.

The presence, or absence, of printed publications from the Facebook list became an immediate source of contention throughout the media world, irrespective of political alignment 😛 TAGEND

Adrianne Jeffries (@ adrjeffries) May 12, 2016

i’m so salty about motherboard not being on this goddamn facebook list

The conservative media was also incensed by Stocky, whose electoral contributions including a $2,700 maximum donation to Hillary Clintons presidential campaign were subsequently is issued by conservative outlets the Federalist and Breitbart.

In addition, US senator John Thune, a Republican party leader and chairman of the Senate commerce committee, demanded on Tuesday that Facebook respond to the allegations of bias.

Steven Crowder , a syndicated right-wing talk indicate host with more than 1.1 m followers on Facebook, has said he is pursuing legal action following the completion of Gizmodos revelations.

But some media experts were pleased to hear that Facebook was not relying solely on algorithms for its news collect.

Michael Shapiro, a professor at Columbia Universitys School of Journalism, said: Call me old-fashioned but Im always endlessly happier when a human being is making a decision.

Editors are people, have things that they love and things theyd never want to read but one thing an editor can do that no algorithm can do is factor for amaze. An algorithm is based on discerning patterns, and one thing I can say as a publisher is that Im forever struck by how a story with no earthly reason to capture a wide audience will just take off.

One thing non-Facebook newspeople are now indicating is that Facebook release its news curators from the nondisclosure agreements that have maintained its operation shrouded in secrecy. BuzzFeed on Thursday quoted ex-employees characterizing those agreements as unusually harsh. I dont suppose Ive ever signed an NDA like that, one told the site.

Zuckerberg constructed headlines in April for making a veiled criticism of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the companys annual developer conference.

Though he never mentioned Trump by name, Zuckerbergs remarks about fearful voices talking about building walls were widely interpreted to be a reference to Trump.

Instead of build walls we can help build bridges, he added. Instead of dividing people we can connect people. It takes heroism to choose hope over fear.

On 5 May, Facebook announced that it would sponsor both the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer, quoting the social media platforms aim of facilitat[ ing] an open dialogue among voters, candidates and elected official.

Zuckerberg struck a similar tone in Thursday afternoons post.

Every tool we build is designed to give more people a voice and bring our global community together, he wrote. For as long as Im leading this company this will always be our mission.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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