The guy who is in charge of content that is uploaded onto Facebook’s “Trending Topics” section, some of the most valuable real estate on the Internet, has been criticized in recent days following accusations by former employees that the social media giant deliberately suppresses news articles published on conservative and alternative media sites, is actually a maximum donor to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.
As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, Tom Stocky, Facebook’s vice president of product management, issued a response to the allegations first published by Gizmodo that thus far he has not found any evidence the allegations are true – as though he’d rush right out and admit it in the first place.
“My team is responsible for Trending Topics, and I want to address today’s reports alleging that Facebook contractors manipulated Trending Topics to suppress stories of interest to conservatives,” Stocky said in a Facebook post (of course). “We take these reports extremely seriously, and have found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true,” he added.
“Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum. There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality,” Stocky continued. “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.”
You can read the rest here.
That said, Stocky appears to be a maximum donor to the Clinton campaign. According to Federal Election Commission’s online records, Stocky contributed $2,700 to the Hillary for America campaign on October 26, 2015; this is the maximum amount that an individual can give during a primary.
Of course, Stocky isn’t the only Facebook employee who has given lavishly to the Clinton campaign this election cycle. The Hill reported on Tuesday that Facebook employees have given $114,000 in contributions to Clinton’s campaign, far more than any other presidential candidate.
The news site noted further:
The Hill’s tally comes as Facebook battles accusations from some former contractors that the company suppressed conservative news on its “trending” feature that has prime placement on its many platforms. The company said it takes the charges seriously but “found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true.”
The Hill’s review found that about 78 employees who work on engineering, communications, public policy, strategy, marketing, human resources and other areas have donated to Clinton.
That includes at least seven vice presidents at the company, including Tom Stocky, whose team is in charge of the trending feature. The company has about 13,600 employees.
The thing to understand here is that 1) the charges were not simply leveled by just one former employee whose job it was to identify trending content using Facebook’s algorithm and post it in the Trending section (these employees were called “news curators”); and 2), the charges were specific and included documentation of the bias against conservative and alternative news sites, even if they were actually 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. The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module.
Is this something Facebook would immediately own up to?
There is enough smoke here to warrant Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to react out to conservatives to discuss the reports.