A long report from Wall Street Journal published last Friday (16) says that Facebook has done everything to ensure that its algorithms prioritize conservative and right-wing content on the platform, at the same time that it harms the opposite, left-wing bias. The article states that this has been happening since 2017, when the company’s engineers were instructed to design an algorithm to disproportionately impact left-wing vehicles, effectively stifling traffic on these channels.
According to the report of the WSJIn that year of 2017, powerful people with Facebook profiles were concerned about how these changes would affect the right-wing media and wanted to avoid adding fuel to the critics’ argument that the platform has an anti-conservative bias.
However, in its attempt to appear impartial, the company exaggerated the dose and went beyond acceptable levels of correction – which is nothing new given the company’s history. Facebook engineers revised the update to affect left-wing sites more than previously planned, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself approved the redesign. In a note to the newspaper, the company claimed that the changes did not target any specific vehicle.
“We did not make changes with the intention of impacting individual publishers,” a Facebook spokesman told WSJ.
One of the sites that the report cited as being negatively affected by this overhaul is Mother Jones, a renowned investigative news outlet. In response to the report, Mother Jones’ editorial director for growth and strategy, Ben Dreyfuss, wrote a blunt criticism of Facebook that details years of frustrating and strained relationships with the company.
Dreyfuss said that at several meetings with Facebook executives in 2017 and 2018, he was sure that, although publishers could expect traffic to decrease after algorithmic changes, “it was not in a way that favored or disadvantaged any publication or class. editor ”. In 2019, several of the site’s editors wrote that Facebook traffic had dropped dramatically in the past 18 months, resulting in a loss of at least $ 600,000.
A CEO do Mother Jones, Monika Bauerlein, expressed frustration with Facebook on a Twitter topic last Friday, explaining that the loss of traffic had “real effects” on the organization. Mother Jones saw a drop of about $ 400,000 in annual website revenue and, as a result, was unable to fill vacancies or complete certain projects.
“One of the reasons this is so irritating is that I have been insisting on giving Facebook the benefit of the doubt for so long. I was convinced that we were a random victim. But it is always, always something worse, ”wrote Bauerlein.
I’m in a @MotherJones board meeting today so it’s going to take a while to fully process this infuriating news, but just briefly (because YOU, as a news consumer, should be furious): https://t.co/6vehZNIcdi pic.twitter.com/KUrJgGUHUd
– Monika Bauerlein (@MonikaBauerlein) October 16, 2020
In an attempt to appear impartial, Facebook was caught spoiling channels and pages tilted to the right, to prevent the conservative gang from speaking out because of unfounded allegations of anti-conservative censorship.
In August, a complaint from the Buzzfeed News detailed how a Facebook employee was allegedly fired after collecting evidence that the company gave preferential treatment to right-wing pages. Internal documents leaked to the NBC also showed that Facebook relaxed its fact-checking standards for conservative news outlets and personalities, including Breitbart and the former Fox News, Diamond and Silk, so that they would not be penalized for spreading misinformation.
And so, Facebook continues to lose reason when it comes to moderating content on its platform, blocking the coverage of legitimate channels and, at the same time, failing to prevent dangerous conspiracy theories and misinformation from being rampant.
[The Wall Street Journal]