Facebook Suppresses Conservatism, Promotes Liberalism: Why Would That Be Surprising?

One of today’s big news stories is the revelation in Gizmodo that Facebook employees have routinely suppressed conservative news and commentary in Facebook’s trending news section, while promoting liberal news and commentary that was not, in fact, trending on Facebook:

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.

Like, for example, stories about Black Lives Matter.

Years ago, many people believed that “new media” were, or would become, a powerful corrective to the liberal bias of “old media.” While the internet certainly has increased the diversity of viewpoints and news sources, allowing many more conservative voices to be heard, most major new media outlets like Facebook, Google and Yahoo have been taken over by liberals, just as old media outlets like the New York Times, CBS and so on fell under left-wing sway. The Gizmodo article is accurate on this point:

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.”

There was never any reason to assume that new media outlets, as they became established and bureaucratized, would be any more hospitable to conservative values (freedom, mostly) than their predecessors in print and broadcast media. Why liberals inevitably dominate such organizations is an interesting question. It may be that media companies are no different from any other organizations, and are subject to O’Sullivan’s Law: any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time.

Whether or not that is a universal principle, Facebook is typical in this sense: it is a rapacious enterprise that has found countless ingenious ways to raise revenue from its users, making its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, one of the world’s richest men. Zuckerberg, believing he is not yet rich enough, has campaigned actively to import more cheap labor into the United States in order to drive down his company’s costs. And all the while, the youthful minions described by Gizmodo crank out liberal bias that, likely unknown to them, serves the interests of the company’s plutocratic owners.

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