Facebook admits “rogue employees” may have shown bias against conservatives
The online giant denied that it’s shown “systematic political bias,” but admitted employees play a bigger role than previously acknowledged in determining what news is highlighted in the trending topics section.
Facebook also acknowledged that rogue employees may have unintentionally discriminated against conservative stories or even acted with malice in “isolated improper actions.”
In one instance Facebook rejected a story this year about the opening of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — the largest gathering of right-wing activists in the country. Facebook says that was likely because there were already enough stories about the Republican presidential primary. But the company said since it allowed CPAC posts in 2015, it doesn’t think it showed discrimination.
“Given the history of acceptance of CPAC as a topic in 2015 and on most days in 2016, we do not believe any bias can be inferred,” Colin Stretch, the company’s general counsel, said in an extensive reply to Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, who is probing the allegations of bias.
Still, Facebook said it will retrain employees and impose new “controls and oversight” to try to cut down the chances for bias.
Mr. Thune said the review was a good start, and showed Facebook had not been completely forthcoming earlier when it said its news decisions were based on algorithms.
“Facebook’s description of the methodology it uses for determining the trending content it highlights for users is far different from and more detailed than what it offered prior to our questions. We now know the system relied on human judgment, and not just an automated process, more than previously acknowledged,” the South Dakota Republican said.