The headlines this week are about Facebook’s “suppression” or “censorship” of conservative news. As Snopes points out, there are two separate things that former employees are (anonymously) accusing Facebook of: The first is the suppression of conservative news topics which, if true, is indeed troubling. If there’s breaking news about say, Ted Cruz, and a Facebook employee “blacklists” or suppresses that information, that calls into question the very premise of Facebook as a source for news, nevermind an unbiased one.
The second accusation is that Facebook is suppressing conservative media. A set of Facebook employees apparently have been hand-selecting trending topics and sources, possibly to train the algorithms to take over later on. In doing so, they have apparently disregarded some sources:
Stories covered by conservative outlets (like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Newsmax) that were trending enough to be picked up by Facebook’s algorithm were excluded unless mainstream sites like the New York Times, the BBC, and CNN covered the same stories.
Kelly McBride at Poynter has written a solid piece about the ethics around Facebook’s editorializing of the news. And editorializing is what we should call it. Putting aside for a moment the important fact that Facebook has been completely opaque about its methods here (and in other areas), ultimately I think we want some editorializing. To some degree, we do want Facebook selecting the sources from which we receive information carefully, otherwise what’s to stop Stormfront from becoming a trending news source? Google also picks and chooses what shows up as news sources, although its big tent includes everything from Snopes.com to the New York Times, Electronic Intifada to The Blaze.
Facebook could do that, or it could be transparent about its methods, and editorialize with reliance on multiple or mainstream coverage of events. Personally, with such transparency, I don’t have a problem with Facebook picking and choosing which sources it relies upon. Such lines have to be drawn somewhere. And just look at how some of the top conservative media have covered this scandal:
These are publications that some people think we should rely on for news. In my view, this is not journalism, this is screeching propaganda. I would stop using Facebook if I saw these headlines start showing up. They’re simply not truthful.
Now, does the so-called liberal media, or even the left media, do the same things sometimes? I won’t deny that. Journalists are human and frankly, objectivity is bullshit. But sites like The Blaze, The Rebel, Fox, and even the New York Post have no interest in truth, and the sooner we muster up the courage to say that out loud, the better.