Facebook announced Monday it was sending employees out for retraining and would discontinue some of its practices as it sought to defend itself against charges of political bias against conservatives.
The online giant denied that it’s shown “systematic political bias,” but admitted employees played a bigger role than previously acknowledged in determining what news is highlighted in the trending topics section.
Facebook also acknowledged that rogue employees may have unintentionally discriminated against conservative stories or even acted with malice in “isolated improper actions.”
In one instance Facebook rejected a story this year about the opening of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — the largest gathering of right-wing activists in the country. Facebook says that was likely because there were already enough stories about the Republican presidential primary. But the company said since it allowed CPAC posts in 2015, and covered other parts of the 2016 conference, there wasn’t any discrimination.
“Our investigation has revealed no evidence of systematic political bias in the selection or prominence of stories included in the Trending Topics feature. In fact, our analysis indicated that the rates of approval of conservative and liberal topics are virtually identical in Trending Topics,” Colin Stretch, the company’s general counsel, said in an extensive reply to Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, who is probing the allegations of bias.
Former Facebook employees told Gizmodo earlier this month that they detected bias in the way news was “curated” by the site, with stories on top GOP figures, conservative commentators and right-wing causes getting short shrift.
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