A new report by The Wall Street Journal serves to show how social media giant Facebook’s internal chat boards often keep politics at the center of their decisions.
Keeping Breitbart to Avoid Backlash?
The publication delves into how the company chose to allow news publisher Breitbart to persist on its News Tab even as employees called for it to be removed in the light of it having released a number of headlines following the death of George Floyd, including “Minneapolis Mayhem: Riots in Masks” and “BLM Protesters Pummel Police Cars in 101.”
The reason for wanting Breitbart out had been quite simple, and had to do with the outlet’s “concerted effort” to depict Black Americans their movements in a negative light. However, Facebook didn’t heed these requests, instead choosing to make the words of a researcher who said that removing the right-wing publisher would face internal roadblocks due to “potential political blowback” (Breitbart was popular among Trump-supporters), a reality.
Nevertheless, a company spokesperson did try to clear the matter by saying that Facebook decides on who to keep based on the type of their content that shows up on News Tab, rather than taking into account the entire array of articles and publications posted on their sites and platforms.
Employees Allege Special Treatment to Right-Wing Publishers
All in all, it appears that the that industry giant does see a lot of discussions over such issues in its internal forums these days.
While the observations made by the Journal don’t really comment on whether or not political bias actually has a bearing on the firm’s overall decisions, they do depict, rather clearly, employees and execs have often debated (and sometimes taken opposite sides on) how right-wing publishers in general.
Internal documents also show that the management at Facebook has been desperately trying to avoid being charged with bias. So much so that political considerations seem to have become a central part of its decision making. However, employees have frequently been vocal about calling the firm out for failing to enforce its own rules when it comes to right-wing publishers, under fear of potential blowback. They allege that Breitbart and others like it are often exempted from appropriate action against posting hate speech or misinformation, because they have long been known to be the best performers on the site.
Facebook, nevertheless, does say that politics doesn’t have a place in its decisions, and that content is regulated and policies changed keeping user experience in mind. Spokesperson Andy Stone adds that when changes pertain to the likes of publishers, the potential effect of the change is studied before it is put to effect.