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Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Says He’ll Meet With Conservatives Over Bias Claims

Mark Zuckerberg F8
AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Thursday that he would invite “leading conservatives” to meet with him in the coming weeks to discuss the social media giant’s Trending Topics policy, following a report this week that company contractors suppressed stories with rightward viewpoints.

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg wrote that they “have found no evidence that this report is true.” But he suggested that they are continuing to conduct an investigation.

“If we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it,” he wrote.

A Gizmodo story posted on Monday, citing unnamed former “news curators,” claimed that Facebook workers “routinely suppressed” conservative news stories. The next day, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent a letter of inquiry to Zuckerberg about its practices.

“Trending Topics is designed to surface the most newsworthy and popular conversations on Facebook,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We have rigorous guidelines that do not permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or the suppression of political perspectives.”

He added that in addition to leading conservatives, he would invite “people from across the political spectrum to talk with me about this and share their points of view. I want to have a direct conversation about what Facebook stands for and how we can be sure our platform stays as open as possible.”

The Guardian reported on Thursday that Facebook relies heavily on a human editorial team to determine what makes news trending headlines, despite the company’s list of factors suggesting that such judgments are determined by machine.

Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s VP of global operations, outlined how Trending Topics works in a blog post, along with a link to its policy. He wrote that the guidelines “do not permit reviewers to add or suppress political perspectives.”

“First and foremost, the algorithm that surfaces topics eligible for review optimizes for popularity and frequency on Facebook and whether it is a real world event — and does not consider perspective or politics,” he wrote. “Second, we have a series of checks and balances in place to help surface the most important popular stories, regardless of where they fall on the ideological spectrum, as well as to eliminate noise that does not relate to a current newsworthy event but might otherwise be surfaced through our algorithm.”