Anonymous whistle-blowers who worked inside Facebook’s newsroom told Gizmodo they were not allowed to publish news stories from conservative news organizations such as RedState, Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Newsmax, unless a mainstream media organization like CNN, BBC, and USAToday also ran the story.
The “trending” stories are featured in Facebook’s trending section of each user’s Facebook page and are supposed to reflect the stories which are popular across social media. But according to one conservative former Facebook employee (who was so bothered by the censorship practice he kept a running log of the censorship), there allegedly were blacklisted individuals whose stories were not allowed to be published even though they were trending on other sites such as Twitter.
One such blacklisted individual was Steven Crowder, who was listed among other names like Ted Cruz and Glenn Beck as being individuals whose stories were subject to discretionary removal from the trending section by Facebook’s news curators.
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Adding chaos to controversy, the whistle-blowers also contend they were instructed to inject news stories into the “trending” news section even though they were not trending at the time. Some of the Black Lives Matter group’s news stories were allegedly inserted as a result of pressure being placed on Facebook to highlight the group’s activities.
According to Michael Nunez of Gizmodo, “Several former curators described using something called an ‘injection tool’ to push topics into the trending module that weren’t organically being shared or discussed enough to warrant inclusion — putting the headlines in front of thousands of readers rather than allowing stories to surface on their own. In some cases, after a topic was injected, it actually became the number one trending news topic on Facebook.”
And stories which involved Facebook itself were carefully scrutinized before being allowed to run in the “trending” feed, according to the former Facebook employee who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.
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Nunez wrote, “Among the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: Former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder.”
The recent revelations have so apparently angered Crowder that he’s planning to file a lawsuit against Facebook. In a statement to the company, Crowder wrote that he’s officially conducting a legal inquiry into the accusations first published by Gizmodo. He filed a pre-lawsuit discovery against the alleged practices of censorship by Facebook.
Crowder issued a statement which in part reads:
It is fully understood that Facebook has every right to curate any content they so desire on their platform. However, Facebook’s bullying methods of operation in tandem with both the long-standing evidence of misconduct and the allegations newly brought to light require further investigation given the direct financial ramifications on business clients acting in trust with Facebook.
As part of this investigation, a petition for pre-suit discovery has been filed in Dallas County, Texas seeking discovery from Facebook regarding the actions of its News Feed curators as well as its billing department. A copy is attached. Mr. Crowder is confident that Facebook will promptly and transparently address the request for information.
For his part of the controversy, Crowder has promised not to let the issue die. If his stories were purposefully targeted for removal from the trending feed, and since he was a paying business client of Facebook, he’s now demanding answers.
On Tuesday, Facebook denied the accusations leveled at the company. Tom Stocky, who says his team is responsible for managing the content in the “trending” section, wrote in a Facebook post, “There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality. These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives. Nor do they permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or one news outlet over another. These guidelines do not prohibit any news outlet from appearing in Trending Topics.”
Responding to the charge the BLM group’s stories were injected into the feed Stocky wrote, “We looked into that charge and found that it is untrue. We do not insert stories artificially into trending topics, and do not instruct our reviewers to do so.”
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