Paul Gordon- Facebook has a real image problem after a story emerged in Gizmodo citing claims by a ‘news curator’ that previously worked for Facebook claiming that the social media giant is not actually producing an accurate ‘trending topics’ list in users’ feeds. Here is an excerpt from the Gizmodo article:
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.”
The problem with Facebook using political bias in how it presents trends echos the already noticeable double standards Facebook applies to political views, depending on the views. It’s tendency to favor progressive, collectivist worldviews over anything else (be it conservative, libertarian, etc) is a problem that is not, at present, costing Facebook because, so far, no one has built a social media platform that has one key element that Facebook has, everyone’s there. However, I predict it’s only a matter of time before comparable social media platforms will arise that will offer something the overall market really desires, an unbiased, un-manipulated social media platform. And, at first, the people who perceive themselves as being the targets of Facebook censorship will come, then others will follow.
The simple service of having a platform to go to where you connect to friends, family, activists, fellow kindred spirits, co-workers, etc, no matter your worldview, is something that people want. This is clearly demonstrated by the popularity of Facebook, which started out offering just that service. However, the times they are a changing. Big money investment appears to bring big money strings with it. If you want a social media platform, where you can count on your content having a fair chance of reaching beyond your close circle, Facebook, like other social media giants (such as Google, YouTube and Twitter) is not that place anymore.
Like Icarus, however, Facebook’s hubris is sending it too close to the sun. The time will come, and relatively soon, when people will talk abut Facebook like we talk about Myspace today. And the reason? They chose to change their product from an unbiased social media platform for all to a political tool for some.