Facebook today denied allegations that it regularly surpresses politically conservative news stories.
The social network came under fire Monday when Gizmodo, citing former Facebook staffers, reported that the site "routinely" censors right-wing content — including stories about the CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and more — from appearing in its "trending" news section. In response, Facebook's VP of Search Tom Stocky, who leads the team responsible for trending topics, said there is "no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true."
"There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality," Stocky wrote in a Tuesday Facebook post. "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."
That's a different story than Gizmodo's anonymous sources shared. Several former Facebook news curators reportedly told the tech site that they were instructed to include certain stories in the trending news section, even if they weren't popular among users, and demote conservative topics that were actually trending.
"Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending," one former curator reportedly said. "I'd come on shift and I'd discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn't be trending because either the curator didn't recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz."
Facebook says its trending section objectively lists "topics that have recently become popular on Facebook." Stocky on Tuesday further explained that popular topics are "first surfaced by an algorithm, then audited by review team members to confirm that the topics are in fact trending news."
"Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to systematically discriminate against sources of any ideological origin and we've designed our tools to make that technically not feasible," he added. "At the same time, our reviewers' actions are logged and reviewed, and violating our guidelines is a fireable offense."
The issue has already drawn the attention of the government. According to Gizmodo, the Senate Commerce Committee sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg requesting answers to questions about the trending topics section.