The leak on Facebook shows internal turmoil over access to conservative content

Facebook has long been accused of playing favorites on several sides of the political spectrum, and now it is clear how much that noise extends to the ranks of the company. Leaking for The Wall Street Journal reportedly shows that Facebook leaders and staff have repeatedly clashed over the social network’s access to conservative content, especially because of media such as Breitbart. Regular employees accused Facebook of making “special exceptions” to the right-wing house policy, while senior-level staff warned of potential pitfalls.

The workers claimed that Facebook remained Breitbart in the second level of the News card, a section that was supposed to focus on reliable news, despite very low trust and quality ratings, as well as breaches of misinformation. Facebook not only made exceptions, one employee said, but “explicitly” supported houses like this by including them as reliable partners. Staff claimed that Facebook was “afraid of political reactions” if it pursued policies equally, and believes the site allowed conservative influencers Diamond and Silk to lobby to verify the facts to avoid punishment for spreading misinformation.

Seniors opposed the justifications for those decisions. They argued that launching news to assess trust would risk launching more mainstream media such as CNN, for example. When the staff asked Facebook to intervene BreitbartBecause of alleged attempts to avoid ad blocks on the site, the director said Facebook had to resist the urge and “rely on our principles and policies.”

Facebook reiterated its familiar stance in response to Journal, retaining this limited access to low-quality material to “enhance people’s experiences” rather than because of political preferences. The spokesman added that Facebook had studied the effects of potential changes before implementing them and that publishers liked it. Breitbart it still meets the conditions for respecting the rules against misinformation and hate speech.

The findings are unlikely to satisfy people on either side of the American political spectrum. Liberals may be concerned that Facebook is knowingly allowing the spread of largely fabricated and overtly false claims, while the right might see this as evidence of alleged anti-conservative bias. Insights, however, reveal a more conflicted approach to the material. They also stress the importance of tools designed to automatically limit the reach of misinformation – they could minimize internal debates by combating fake news without the need for so much human input.

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Naveen Kumar

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