So who’s surprised that Facebook’s “trending” algorithms are far from objective. In fact they are blatantly dishonest and exhibit the biases of its owners and managers. They also suppress any unfavourable statistics about Facebook itself. They suppress favourable statistics on political viewpoints that Zuckerberg does not share and inject false statistics about political viewpoints that he supports.
Self-serving and dishonest, without a doubt. But no different to any lobby group or news outlet which has a particular point of view. The problem is that Facebook claims that its trending module is objective when it clearly is not. And that is fraud.
Gizmodo: Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.
Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all. The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module.
In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing—but it is in stark contrast to the company’s claims that the trending module simply lists “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”