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Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News (gizmodo.com)
320 points by uptown on May 9, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 349 comments



I have no great love of conservative politics, but there's a convincing argument to be made that their ideas and views are routinely suppressed by media outside of explicitly partisan media outlets (i.e. Fox News or talk radio).

There are a number of studies that back up this claim. A 2008 study[0] found that 88% of journalists donate to the Democratic party. Jonathan Haidt has shown[1] that non-economics social sciences skew more than 14-1 liberal to conservative (and that universities have not always been so skewed).

For anyone who believes these statistics are not based on overt discrimination based on political viewpoint, a recent study[2] showed that discrimination by party is stronger than that of race. The study did so by reproducing a landmark study that demonstrated the existence of unconscious racial bias (the implicit association test), but instead using political indicators. They found that partisan political positions triggered implicit associations 50% stronger than that of racial biases. There is also a recent book called "Passing on the Right"[3] which provides some personal narratives of conservative academics.

If you're relying on academic knowledge to provide you a sense of reality, you're viewing reality through a lens that is biased to a 93% degree towards one political pole, and then receiving that knowledge through a media system which is biased to an 88% degree towards that same political pole.

Even if you, like me, generally believe that the liberal political position is correct, ideological conformity of this magnitude should frighten you.

[0] http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/article/130902

[1] http://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/09/14/bbs-paper-on-lack-of-...

[2] https://pcl.stanford.edu/research/2015/iyengar-ajps-group-po...

[3] https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/03/30/new-book-deta...


> Even if you, like me, generally believe that the liberal political position is correct, ideological conformity of this magnitude should frighten you.

What it does is make people whose views fall out of that bubble feel disenfranchised. This is no small part of the Trump phenomenon.

I was watching a documentary about South American politics yesterday and there was a globalist establishment candidate running against one that was a protectionist populist. It was strange to see that the globalist was on the right and the protectionist was on the left and that is exactly the opposite of what we are seeing in the US election this year. After decades of people on the left lamenting that working class Republicans don't vote in their own interest the left is in a panic now because they are.

No one saw this coming and the media lock down is the reason why. When it's easy to smear anyone who does not take a globalist position as a racist that part of political discourse goes underground until it pops up in the voting booth.


I think it also helps to have someone "legitimize" what are relatively to mainstream news "outcaste" views. It also helps when you have a charismatic person personifying those ideas.

Palin, for example may have had similar opinions but was not charismatic. Trump on the other hand sounds like your regular blue collar worker --I've known black as well as white blue collar workers and they speak just like that. When they make a mistake, they don't try to explain it away like a Clinton or a Bush. Nah, they just come out and say, yeah, I was probably wrong and this is why and offer some plausible support for the argument. Also, I think lots of working class people have felt funny about politicians tiptoeing around issues rather than just being a bit "vulgar" about things and that appeals to some people. If you ever listen to how people who take buses to the poorer areas of town talk, just sit at one of those stops long enough you'll know what I mean. They are unfiltered and speak as they feel without any affected tiptoeing.


Wow, I never noticed this until now! I come from those blue-collar places you talked about, and I can't stand people who try to run away from what they've done, as it feels like they're trying to dodge responsibility for what they've done! Better to screw up and apologize than screw up and deny screwing up!

This irritates me with corporate management types too, trying to tell you what to do without telling you, and therefore avoiding responsibility for their guidance.

I'll have to think about this more, thanks again!


It was strange to see that the globalist was on the right and the protectionist was on the left and that is exactly the opposite of what we are seeing in the US election this year.

Realistically, the terms "left" and "right" don't mean a damn thing in modern politics, at least not in the US. There's not really a cohesive ideology that you can say is "the left ideology", or one you can call "the right ideology". Both labels are, at times, attached to a smorgasbord of ideas, some related, some unrelated, and probably some that are diametrically opposed to each other.

Mostly those words exist simply as pejoratives now.

And to the extent that they have any meaning, the idea of one dimensional model of political orientation is brain-dead anyway. You can't actually reflect the variety of political belief like that. Take, for example, Libertarians, who are, as the old joke goes "left of left, AND right of right". That shouldn't be possible, and yet, here we are.

We really ought to quit talking in terms of "left" and "right" and find a richer and more consistent model to describe political orientation.


>We really ought to quit talking in terms of "left" and "right" and find a richer and more consistent model to describe political orientation.

We would need a higher dimensional political process to apply it to, first. A two party system can only describe one-dimensional politics.


I believe referring to our system as a "two party" system is mistake. In the United States there are far more than two political parties, although two specific parties dominate electoral politics. BUT, continuing to refer to the system as "two party" simply perpetuates this belief that there's no reason to vote for "third" parties, even though "3rd party" candidates DO get elected. Most of them are at the city council / county board of commissioners level, they they get elected and hold office.[1]

And as long as we stick to this incorrect single dimensional model, we make it even more difficult to talk about 3rd parties, exactly because some (many?|most??) of them don't fit the simplistic left/right continuum. To continue with an earlier example, American libertarians do not fit cleanly on either side of that model. I'm pretty sure there are other examples, but the Libertarian one is the one I'm most familiar with.

It's something of a chicken-or-the-egg problem, granted, but right now it's probably easier to start changing the language we use, than it is to overcome first-past-the-post single-member-district voting systems, etc. [2]

[1]: https://www.lp.org/candidates/elected-officials

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duverger's_law


Fair enough.

It's not a two party system, but it is a two-party dominant system.


Good observation but my point was that the Right in the US election is adopting a position with regard to trade that is people on the Left in the US advocate but only for other countries.

That is a puzzle that should be teased apart.


This "seems" like an American phenomenon. As a liberal, I can have a fully formed debate with a British Conservative, A Canadian conservative, a European conservative (sans latent Nazism), however the dominant American conservative seems to be operating on a completely different plain and set of assumptions. I find it extremely difficult to relate to and debate the American conservative. In general, if an american <insert institution here> (college, newspaper etc.) seems uber-liberal in America, it is just run-of-the-mill centrist in most other countries. Not because of any stated or unstated institutional biases, but simply because its been labelled so by a relentless, uncompromising, hyper-focussed and hugely disciplined conservative media looking for easy answers.

P.S: Also the predilection to openly say "Compromise is impossible", esp behind the scenes, also seems to be a unique attribute of the American Conservative.


Many American liberals are just as hard-headed and difficult to debate with. The Overton Window has shifted in the past couple years and the original leftists are now centrists. America has become radically polarized and the radical liberals and just as dangerous and closed-minded as the radical conservatives.

You should also bear in mind that you're commenting on an article where liberals deliberately censored conservative news media. That doesn't do much to support your assertions.

The fact that the American leftist view would be considered centrist in most other countries (like, for example, the nordic countries) is essentially meaningless. Just because "left" takes on different meanings or extremes in different parts of the world doesn't mean that the US is behind or should become more left. To compare US politics to those of Finland, Switzerland, or even Canada is completely absurd. We are a fundamentally different people, system, land mass, you name it. Our political system must take that into account.


Point being, Facebook's audience is majority international and it most of all wants to make money. If you occam's razor this, Facebook is simply presenting people with what they want to hear (a well-proven phenomenon[1]). The report has shown nothing to prove that there is some sort of committee that decides which political stances facebook is going to shove down people's throats, but we know it has MULTIPLE groups trying to increase engagement. The international community believes that the American right is nuts, voila, Facebook selectively presents this as the dominant news. Click, click, click...PROFIT.

[1]:https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_b...)


I totally see what you're saying, but that's not what happened here. This was deliberate and subjective curation by a group of similarly politically minded individuals, despite the fact that the feed appeared to be organic. They were pushing a political agenda in the US.


Yes, I can see how this can be interpreted as that but I don't see any evidence of this in the report. All it says is, some un-named higher up sometimes made the call of what to show and what to not? Based on what? Liberal talking points or carefully measured clickbait titles that had previously led to more user engagement. Given their recent earnings report, what is more likely?


>>> I find it extremely difficult to relate to and debate the American conservative

Yet, the topic here is that conservative-related news items appear to have been suppressed or down-scored on the influential Facebook trending box, presumably by liberal or liberal-leaning curators (or algorithms written by liberal leaning programmers).

How do you conclude that conservatives are uncompromising or closed minded when in fact it is the liberal side that is closing the door here?


Most of Facebook's users are international. There is a chance that what is "liberal" in America is simply something that runs counter to the American conservatives disciplined beliefs.

Example #1: When a prominent American conservative does something like shutdown the government instead of compromising (remember compromising gets you booted at the next elections see: Paul Ryan). To most of the world (liberal and conservative), this is nuts. Facebook bubbles news reports about how "crazy" this is to the top. American news media will most likely call this a liberal bias when really it's just an international one.

Example #2: If facebook, editorializes a giant Ice-sheet melting and how that is related to anthropogenic global warming (something most International conservatives have accepted), most American conservatives will call that to be liberal bias. Note that this is not about policy decisions, most international conservatives don't agree with Carbon Taxes for instance, but one of just straight facts and assumptions.


Your examples are not what happens though. What happens is promoting stories favorable to democrat politicians, hiding stories favorable to republican politicians, covering up "refugee" crimes, reporting completely made up "evil right wing death squad nazis" doing evil anti-refugee things that never happened, etc, etc.


> covering up "refugee” crimes

This. Facebook agreeing to work with German government to do something about “racism” comments in German version (read: FB users talking about Cologne attacks that weren’t covered by mainstream press at all for weeks). FB blocking links to a mainstream respectable media’s article about freedom of speech in Czech version.

I have no doubt that FB doesn’t consider it bias. They’re righteous and seeing that attitude all over the supposedly “liberal” sphere is frightening.


Because when has hyperbolic stories about immigrants ever gotten out of hand?


I don't know, when? And what exactly is "out of hand", and how out of hand does it need to be before censorship becomes good?


In Australia. You might want to search for "The Children Overboard Affair".


I don't follow. That story got out of hand? In what way? And again, how out of hand does a story need to get to make censorship good?


Try looking it up first.


Please don't perpetuate spats.


Sorry. It's just that a Google search would have taken him to this:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_Overboard_affair

Which was a release of wrong information that demonised refugees for supposedly throwing their children into the water to blackmail the Howard government into letting them into Australia. This was released by Peter Reith, but it was subsequently revealed it was nothing of the sort, but it helped create a moral panic that boosted the electoral prospects of the Howard government, who subsequently won. It wasn't checked carefully by media organizations who ran the story - so it indeed got out of hand.

Which answered his question.


A google search did take me to that, which doesn't answer my question at all. A false story is not a story getting out of hand. It is a false story. And it doesn't address the main question of "how out of hand does a story need to be to make censorship good?".


Really, please stop, both of you.


I did. Now please explain what you mean. Acting as though anyone who can not read your mind is some sort of mentally defective reject not worth bothering with is in rather poor taste.


I would, but your response is so aggressive I think I'll pass this time.


If you would, then you would have. You didn't the first time I asked, or the second, why pretend you would the third time?


Please stop. Comments here need to be civil and substantive, and yours are crossing both lines.


Sure, however the issue is how does this news 'bubble up'?

Because the International Facebook community are sharing and commenting on it organically, or because a group of liberal curators decide that's what Facebook users will see in the trending column?

As far as I understand, it's not the news that's being promoted (let's display this article on global warming, for example) that's the issue here, it's the news that's being suppressed (this Donald Trump post is getting popular, but I don't like his views so let's not display it).


Isn't the newsfeed you see on Facebook specific to the country you're from?


Wow, a non-falsifiable argument about how another side is a priori wrong. I'm sure this is a reasonable point to make.


The 2008 study did not find that "88% of journalists donate to the Democratic party."

It found that, of people who made a political donation and identified a journalism company as their employer, 88% donated to a Democratic candidate or cause.

It's not possible to take this study as evidence of an overall bias in journalism, because it is a very small, non-random sample of people. The total number of people included in the study is less than 1,500, and it was a self-selected group. In addition it includes non-journalist jobs like CFO and a "Saturday Night Live" producer.

About the only solid conclusion to draw from this study is that the vast majority of journalists do not contribute to political parties or candidates at all.


> Jonathan Haidt has shown[1] that non-economics social sciences skew more than 14-1 liberal to conservative (and that universities have not always been so skewed).

This seems to be measured by "Democrat" vs. "Republican". An alternative hypothesis is that mainstream American political views have skewed strongly towards the right in recent decades, but that shift did not touch the academy, and also that America became more prominent in research in recent decades (so more researchers labeled themselves by American political parties).

Anecdotally, it seems like there's a liberal/conservative split within the Democratic party, exemplified by Sanders/Hillary. I wonder what you get if you figure out some good way to quantify that, and then redo the statistics.

This is only frightening if you think that there's a lot of ideological conformity within the label "Democrat", or that the specific ideologies with the label "Republican" need representation. There are probably good arguments for those, but they're not completely obvious.


Completely agree. Though I think the issue here is bigger than that. Journalism by its nature is subjective. So it may be bias, and that's still crummy, but at least the people consuming it know what they're getting.

Facebook, on the other hand, portrays its "trending" news as being determined objectively based on what people are sharing. That goes beyond bias to manipulative. It would be the same if Google were filtering conservative news sites out of its results.


> the liberal political position is correct

Agree with everything you said up to this point.

Liberal politics is mostly correct on social matters and dead wrong on economics. And, of course, the GOP is dead wrong on social matters and mostly correct on economics.

And that's what sucks for a lot of us, no party with a shot at winning and setting us on the correct path is mostly correct across the board.

I have a feeling we are standing at a crossroad where the only option is to go for the economy. Why? Because if we deteriorate further we can kiss goodby to social and environmental responsibility. Just look at any country that's in the shits economically for examples of how well social and environmental programs work when you are broke.

Trump?

Barf.

Sadly.


> I have no great love of conservative politics, but there's a convincing argument to be made that their ideas and views are routinely suppressed by media outside of explicitly partisan media outlets (i.e. Fox News or talk radio).

Fox News is not "explicitly partisan", they are purportedly neutral ("Fair and Balanced").

They are widely recognized as extraordinarily partisan, but that's different than "explicitly partisan".


What's bad is that it doesn't help reinforce your feeling that your position is correct when the other side is being actively suppressed. I generally agree with many liberal positions, but when I hear about stuff like this it makes me want to reconsider my opinions of conservative positions. It's exactly like the Streisand Effect.


at the same time, how do you feel about creationism and intelligent design being suppressed instead of given equal airtime with competing theories.

what constitutes "fair?" if one group is twice as loud while delivering the same amount of content, is it unfair to turn their volume down by half?

how about something like snopes or myth debunking? does dr oz deserve equal placement to more credible nutrition science? what is worse, attempting to surface more legitimate sources, or letting your site turn into a free for all shouting match?

for anyone downvoting me because they think I approve of censorship if my side wins: quite the contrary. I think from a purely theoretical standpoint, signal to noise is a complicated problem, and the people who reject the idea of filtering or ranking in totality are being unrealistic. allowing the loudest speakers to unabatedly monopolize collective attention is a problem.


Quis custodiet ipsos custodet? (Who watches the watchers?)

To have some kind of filtering or curation, you necessarily have to put some people into a position of power where they have the ability to censor this noise. On a forum where it's explicitly known that such "moderators" are present, and even better if their biases are known, this is perfectly fine. If I'm on a science-oriented discussion forum and it's advertised that the moderators of this forum will ban anyone who attempts to spread pseudoscience or anti-science religious junk, that'll help attract me because I don't want waste my time looking at that crap.

There's also forums where there's very little such curation, and instead community moderation is mostly relied on: users are given moderation points to boost or suppress other posts. That's fine too: you know going in what the deal is, so you just have to see if you mesh with the other members or not.

However, if a forum claims to be "open" and "inclusive" but then censors people, that's just hypocritical and wrong. If you're going to push a bias, then you have to at least inform users of this.

As it relates to Facebook, which is supposed to be for everyone and not just people of a certain political persuasion, they shouldn't be censoring anything unless they're going to make this known up-front (which they haven't). "Trending topics" should be anything that's highly popular. If some completely wrong and debunked BS is the most popular new story among your site's users, then you need to show that at the top, or else you're not serving your users. If you don't like that, then you either need to inform them of how you're going to censor and slant things, or you need to get rid of users you don't like. Or maybe just get rid of the "trending topics" section, and replace it with something more fine-tuned so that one group of users doesn't get annoyed at seeing junk they disagree with that another group of users really likes.

The simple fact is that you can't please everyone. If you try, you're going to fail. Sites like Reddit avoid this by having tons of different sub-forums, each with their own rules and moderators. Some far-right conservative wackos can co-exist with far-left liberals there because they're on separate subreddits.


>However, if a forum claims to be "open" and "inclusive" but then censors people, that's just hypocritical and wrong.

I just dont think the trending stories ever made an emphatic claim to be open and inclusive, nor is promoting some stories artificially the equivalent to "censorship." Not allowing stories in the timeline is completely different than manually choosing the trending stories for a day.

Facebook has always been pro censorship. No nipples, no porn. I dont think of facebook as a place for free speech, and I never felt as if the trending stories was some organic popular list. I know everything on facebook is specifically chosen to get ME to click.

That said, watching the watchers is easy if sites publish transparency reports and publish "stories we didnt cover." Problem solved.


Oh please. When I see "trending stories", that implies that the stories are popular, not that they've been manually selected or filtered by some unelected group with an obvious bias and agenda.

As for porn, if the site clearly states that that's something they censor, that's fine. Lots of sites do that. But yes, the whole name "trending stories" absolutely does imply an "organic popular list". If you "know" that this isn't really what it is, that's great for your insight, but it's still lying on the part of Facebook.


i see no implication of interventionless "most popular."

especially on facebook. each person's trending stories could be different and be presented based on what it thinks is popular AND applicable to you. all i see is "here is a subsample of some of our most popular stories." do you and your friends have the same trending stories at the same time? cuz i get regional stories. im sure my friends in other regions dont get those stories. it is quite obviously targeting me based on something besides a global trending list.

nothing on facebook is ever organic. and ive never seen facebook claim anything was.


>especially on facebook. each person's trending stories could be different and be presented based on what it thinks is popular AND applicable to you.

I would agree that this is a fair assumption to make about how it should work.

>cuz i get regional stories. im sure my friends in other regions dont get those stories.

Yes, that's no different than Google News. That's an entirely fair thing to do: tailor a person's feed for their preferences and locality.

>it is quite obviously targeting me based on something besides a global trending list.

Yes, and as long as it's unbiased, there's no problem with that. Especially if users can configure it (maybe I'd really like to see local news items from my hometown, for instance).

However, if they're intentionally omitting news feed items because they don't like them, that's wrong. Omitting news feed items from your feed because you don't live in Laramie, Wyoming and these items are only of interest to locals there is one thing; omitting items because they're of interest to a political group that you don't care for is entirely another.


having humans tagging certain stories as "not news" is not evil agenda based bias, it is spam filtering.

just because a group of people start shouting about something loudly, and the shouting gets popular, doesnt mean facebook should choose to amplify it.

for example, think of mean girls. when gretchen is trying to make fetch happen, and regina says "Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen! It's not going to happen!" A group of likeminded people, say republicans in this example, could be trying to make someone appear popular by shouting their name a lot, ad nauseum. that doesnt make it newsworthy outside the echo chamber.

if the republican network is more coordinated and better at discussing one topic at at time than the democrats, they can push a story higher on the trending list. people being able to manipulate the trending list through coordination isnt ideal. if you want a gamified, competitive trending list, visit twitter. letting pure popularity and activity overrule common sense is foolhearted. i have never seen facebook claim their trending list behaved like twitter (which is where it seems you are getting your ideal trending behavior concept from.)

using humans to balance the trending stories, instead of letting one ideology take it over, is a good thing. but balance doesnt always mean fair or equal. myths dont deserve equal space to debunking. intelligent design doesnt automatically deserve equal placement to more accredited theories. if something is factually wrong, facebook can remove a story from trending to prevent its spread.

plus, algorithms are going to display some kind of bias. any sort of spam filter will disfavor certain noise. is blocking viagra ads bias? algorithms written by people will lean in SOME direction. believing in unbias is naive.


BS. "Spam" is advertising; news you don't agree with is not.

Yes, if Facebook users shout about something loudly and it gets popular, FB has no right to squelch that just because they disagree with it. That's censorship.

If Democrat voters don't like the Republican-aimed news, FB can and should make sure their news feeds are tailored for users so that people don't see stuff from sources they think are junk and so their feeds are more tailored for them and their preferences. I have no problem with that. That's how Google News works; I can tell it to not show me news from crappy sites like Breitbart or WND. But it doesn't censor those sources against my will; if for some crazy reason I really liked those site, I could tell GN to show them to me, and I can set my preference for those sites to a higher factor. The whole key here is user choice: having some fedora-wearing hipster at Facebook telling me what I should and shouldn't be reading is asinine and condescending. Having the ability to configure my news feeds to show me what I want, and hide things I think are garbage, is absolutely correct however.


It might be censorship if facebook were preventing people from posting the stories on each others walls. It might be suspicious if they were tuning the newsfeed algorithm to avoid the stories. But manipulating what stories make it to trending is not censorship. It seems like you are conflating the newsfeed and trending box. The newsfeed is neverending algorithmic magic, the trending box is an editorial masthead controlled "some popular things on our site", that appears in the sidebar. Facebook taking editorial control of the trending sidebar has nothing to do with your ability to configure your newsfeed to suit your desires.

Also, political avocation is marketing and can be spam. Unsolicited "Vote for Ted" emails are spam in my book.


> For anyone who believes these statistics are not based on overt discrimination based on political viewpoint, a recent study[2] showed that discrimination by party is stronger than that of race.

That makes sense. I will freely admit my opinion of a person changes if I find out that they are a republican or libertarian. Doesn't make them a bad person, but the ideas put out by the prominent members of those parties frequently range from from stupid to completely horrifying.


> non-economics social sciences skew more than 14-1 liberal to conservative

isn't it so for every science? I mean it is only natural that the conservative views are displaced by education and scientific knowledge. That is almost by definition.


One of the fascinating things about that article I linked to is that it shows that this extreme bias has only existed since the 1990's. Before that time academia was moderately slanted to the left (a ratio of 2-1 or 3-1), but not to the severe extent. It's important to note that while conservative positions on some issues are objectively at odds with science (global warming comes to mind), there are plenty of liberal viewpoints that are also at odds with mainstream scientific research (think research in genetically modified organisms, or mandatory vaccination policies).

This article is a good example of how liberal viewpoints can also conflict with science:

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/12/when-liberals-attack-so...


It's hard to draw the line of causation though. Maybe the same kind of people have always gone into academia but the Overton Window has shifted.

I generally agree with older conservative agendas (smaller government, efficiency, equality of opportunity) but would never ever call myself a conservative today. Doing so risks lumping yourself in with an ideology which denies reality.

That being said, I'd also hesitate to label myself a liberal due to some of the less rational aspects of liberalism today (knee-jerk anti-capitalism, safe spaces, GMOs).


You may find it interesting that opposition to vaccines (to the degree that it exists) doesn't really have a left/right association outside of the states.


Can you really not see the extreme bias in that statement?


http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conservatism

: belief in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society

: dislike of change or new ideas in a particular area

where is education - is learning of new by the ones being educated, and science is a discovery of new knowledge. Thus conservatism and education/science by definition can't occupy the same volume. Conservatism is compatible with only that education and knowledge which accidentally happen to confirm the established and traditional practices and beliefs which are already in place. ( in other words - they sometimes may agree on value, yet always differ on derivative, thus it is 2 completely different mental models)


In the specific case of conservative politics, why does it matter that it's so skewed? I have absolutely no issue with, in this specific case, conservative politics not receiving much attention. I would liken it to not giving "flat earthers", blatant racists, and charlatans air time (excuse the hyperbole, hopefully the point was understood).

While I agree that ideological conformity is a problem, I think it's a symptom rather than something that needs to be fixed itself at the moment. You would probably see more distributed alignment within certain communities if there wasn't so much "noise" elsewhere.


Funny that you should mention flat earthers - when Galileo published his works proposed a heliocentric system, he was tried for heresy.

I'm sure at the time, the Church were confident they were right about the matter and therefore had no qualms in suppressing Galileo's claims.

Freedom of information and opinion is what drives progress. Should conservative opinions be wrong, then there is no fear in giving them a platform - they can be publicly debunked, to the downfall of their message.

Given that they are feared, suggests that the jury is still out on whether their opinions are categorically wrong, or even whether the opposing opinion is categorically right. In this case, it will be free discussion which will enable us as a society to converge on the correct path.


> Given that they are feared, suggests that the jury is still out on whether their opinions are categorically wrong, or even whether the opposing opinion is categorically right. In this case, it will be free discussion which will enable us as a society to converge on the correct path.

Spot on.


That's simply not how discourse works on a national scale. There are many things that can be given a platform but aren't because it'd be a waste of time. No one is afraid to give these things a platform, it's just pointless. Artificial platforming for the sake of having every imaginable view point with or without merit on the table would be a disaster.

No one is stopping people from having these opinions, speaking about them, or teaching those perspectives. Claiming that this is a cause of freedom of information and somehow making this analogous to Galileo (it's not, not even in the slightest) is absurdly silly.

If you are looking to defend rational discourse and freedom of thought, well, you're not doing that -- leveling out everything on a no-questions-asked baseline is ignorant and becomes borderline satire of unbiased rational thought at that point.


> No one is stopping people from having these opinions, speaking about them, or teaching those perspectives.

You may not have been paying attention, but unfortunately that's not the case.

https://www.thefire.org/list-of-campus-disinvitations-2000-2...

http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/whats-new-about...

http://www.mediaite.com/online/university-president-shuts-do...

And I can link to many more examples if you wish. It's moved from "your opinion is incorrect but I respect your right to speak it" to "I don't agree with what you say so I'm denying your right to express it".

Now do you understand the problem? It's quite incredible, actually.


You linked to extremely far out there sites as your sources, and two of the stories were debunked the day they came out.

Please do provide more examples.


'extremely far out there'?

thefire.org - An org dedicated to freedom of speech on campus, founded by University of Pennsylvania professor Alan Charles Kors and Boston civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate.

Spiked - a 15 year old UK publication with staff from the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator.

Mediaite - a popular and left-leaning online news source that aggregates mainstream news sources.

Come off it. A browse through the links above are ample for anyone concerned about the truth.


Anyone concerned about the truth would have investigated those articles with recent information and found them to be thoroughly debunked as hyperbolic claims with a good bit of nuance to them. But you didn't, because you're not.

You linked to "credible" sources, with some weird standard of credibility which I'm not even sure you believe yourself.


Right. Link to where they're 'thoroughly debunked'.


The concern is that you may be equating the conservative position to flat earthers bases on biased information. It's the classic epistomological dilemma, how do you know what you know? Maybe reality doesn't have a liberal bias. Maybe it's just the loudest people who have a liberal bias.


We might also be equating anti-vaccine individuals to flat-earthers based on biased information. This is pretty much true for just about anything we filter out. Sometimes the fringe stuff turns out to be correct, but often it's not. The National Enquirer broke the John Edwards scandal, yet most people don't take it as a reliable source since most of it's stories are still bogus.

From the story:

> Stories covered by conservative outlets (like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Newsmax) that were trending enough to be picked up by Facebook’s algorithm were excluded unless mainstream sites like the New York Times, the BBC, and CNN covered the same stories.

That doesn't seem too terrible to me. If something from a untrustworthy source known for political agitprop is trending, I wouldn't mind Facebook waiting to see if the mainstream press picks up on it.

If they were letting through stories from places like AlterNet through that would show bias, but being generally cautious with biased sites that have low journalistic standards isn't the worst thing in the world.


I am highly unconvinced that at this point there is some piece of information that will add credibility to conservative rhetoric, economic, or social beliefs. Sure it can happen, it's just unlikely to. Positions do not gain credibility by "what-ifs".

What biased information am I acting on exactly?


> "flat earthers", blatant racists, and charlatans air time (excuse the hyperbole, hopefully the point was understood).

The point was understood, but differently than you intended.

These terms seem to be used to reference the folks that would claim to hold the conservative viewpoint, but the terms themselves only further evidence the misunderstood viewpoint non-conservatives may have of conservatives, and that misunderstanding may have been furthered by what is discussed in the article.


To piggyback on this, one of the things Jonathan Haidt has shown in his work on ideological bias is that liberals are unable to accurately understand the conservative worldview, while both conservative and moderates are able to accurately explain liberal positions.

Here's an explanation of the study:

>One other point that I find really interesting and important about Haidt’s work is his findings on the ability of different groups to empathize across these ideological divides. So in his book (p. 287) Haidt reports on the following experiment: after determining whether someone is liberal or conservative, he then has each person answer the standard battery of questions as if he were the opposite ideology. So, he would ask a liberal to answer the questions as if he were a “typical conservative” and vice-versa. What he finds is quite striking: “The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who describe themselves as ‘very liberal.’ The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives.” In other words, moderates and conservatives can understand the liberal worldview and liberals are unable to relate to the conservative worldview, especially when it comes to questions of care and fairness.

From: http://volokh.com/2014/01/17/jonathan-haidt-psychology-polit...


Part of that might be that conservatives and moderates hear the liberal opinion expressed in so many out outlets that it is fairly easy to give an accurate answer where liberals hear what liberal outlets think conservatives think which is sensationalized to gain eyeballs.

I was taught to be able to argue the other sides opinion as well because then you truly understand what you believe.


Or it could be due to the fact that the current conservative movement relies on deception to push it's agenda, which makes it difficult for the average lay person to even understand what they stand for. Tax cuts marketed as economic stimulus, attacks on regulations and consumer/environmental protections marketed as 'making government more efficient', racial oppression disguised as drug/crime laws, universal health care spun as death panels, etc...


It is pretty funny that in a thread about liberals not being able to accurately summarize conservative ideas you would ascribe to maliciousness a different opinion. You are behaving in the way that the study pointed out but you seem to be defending that position due to "deception" on the part of conservatives.


>Or it could be due to the fact that the current conservative movement relies on deception to push it's agenda, which makes it difficult for the average lay person to even understand what they stand for.

Then why do only liberals have a problem understanding it? Why are moderates and conservatives able to understand without difficulty? Are they not "lay person"s?


Its nice to see throwit992 point proven in such close proximity to the comment. Your spin doesn't reflect the beliefs of any conservative I have met. We aren't twirling mustaches here.


Except for the fact that I would describe myself as a moderate. I can empathize with the desire and need for sensible tax cuts and smaller government, but I can't support a platform that is incoherent and hypocritical.

EDIT: To add a little more substance. I think the incoherence stems from the fact that the current conservative alliance is formed from approximately 3 distinct groups, with different priorities. You have the religious folks who care about abortion, same-sex marriage, drug laws, etc... And then you have the blue collar group that cares more about immigration, guns, etc.. And then you have the pro-business group which mostly cares about taxes and deregulation. From the outside looking in, it shouldn't be surprising that it's hard to empathize with the 'conservative' world view, because the external manifestations of that worldview are often very contradictory (i.e. why would a group that supports small-government also support the drug war, etc...)


I would describe myself as liberal, even by the already relatively liberal standards of coastal California, but I'm not sure incoherence and hypocrisy are things only the Republican party is guilty of.

I see many of the same aspects of incoherence among Democrats and you don't exactly have to look for it in the hidden trenches of the Democratic party. I certainly don't think Sen. Feinstein's views on encryption are in line with those of an open progressive society.

I see the same hypocrisy in Democrats' views on gun control, and specifically the prohibition against convicted felons exercising their constitutional right to bear arms.

I'm generally of the opinion that the criminal justice system in the US is fundamentally broken and institutionally racist/discriminatory. Going by that premise, and seeing the specific hurdles that poor people, and specifically poor black men, face in terms of selective enforcement, likelihood of being offered pretrial plea bargains, chances of conviction, and length of sentencing, I find it hard to view any laws that hope to strip citizens of their rights based on a tainted justice system as anything other than racist. And yet, these laws are broadly supported by both Democrats and Republicans.


> I would describe myself as liberal, even by the already relatively liberal standards of coastal California, but I'm not sure incoherence and hypocrisy are things only the Republican party is guilty of.

An electoral system that can naturally support only two substantially competitive parties guarantees that parties that cannot maintain incoherence will also not be major parties. While the electoral system empirically does reduce the significant axes of variation of political vies in the population [1], it doesn't reduce it so far as to actually fit on the one-dimensional axis implied by a two-party system. So the major parties must be incoherent to be competitive.

[1] See, Arendt Lijphart's Patterns of Democracy for research on this.


It isn't "incoherent and hypocritical" but gets portrayed that way. Some of that is messaging as the GOP is not very media savvy, but by and large, its people who have no desire to understand before reporting.

[edit after the edit - please don't edit after someone has already replied - it makes the replier look bad]

From the outside, Democrats can be viewed as a bunch of special interests under one tent. I find much of these "group slicing" to be problematic when talking about the GOP as I don't think its really those groups or the ultimate belief is what is reported. Viewing a group through another group's lens is fraught with peril.


>Tax cuts marketed as economic stimulus, attacks on regulations and consumer/environmental protections marketed as 'making government more efficient', racial oppression disguised as drug/crime laws, universal health care spun as death panels, etc...

Kind of odd -- everyone immediately jumps down parent's throat, but it's not like tax cuts for 'job creators' and universal health care as 'death panels' aren't actual factual conservative talking points, part of an easily verifiable historical record (I'll concede the "attacks on regulations and consumer/environmental protections marketed as 'making government more efficient'"). I presume those that speak those views are No True Conservatives?


case in point.


> Jonathan Haidt has shown in his work on ideological bias is that liberals are unable to accurately understand the conservative worldview

Actually (without getting into methodological issues and whether he has actually shown anything), the conclusion would be more accurately stated as that liberal are unable to accurately predict the manner in which conservatives would prefer to express their worldview, whereas the reverse is not true.

I think that, to the extent this is accurate at all (and this type of research on broadly characterizing liberals and conservatives, from either side, is fraught with opportunities -- often realized -- to take broad fuzzy terms and operationalize them in ways which reinforces researchers' own ideological biases), what it really reflects is the fact that liberals in-group language is the same as the common language of the broader society and, particularly, entertainment media (to which, then, moderates and conservatives are still heavily exposed), whereas conservatives in-group language is something to which liberals are far less exposed (mainly propagated through conservative churches and similar institutions).

(This is also feeds -- though its not the sole source of -- the liberal view of conservative dishonesty, in that the main context in which liberals encounter conservative in-group language is in conservative advocacy of public policy positions, where the language used to articulate conservative values is used in a way which clashes with liberals expected use of language, and seems dishonest when it comes to values.)


The quote "Conservatives think Liberals are stupid, Liberals think Conservatives are evil" seems to apply here.


it's a lot easier exaggerating, belittling, and dismissing the "other" than it is challenging one's own positions.


Much like the majority of posts in your comment history?


I don't think it's a case of me misunderstanding, I could have easily provided other examples of view points that are largely not covered or ignored because they do not hold merit. Not that this really adds negates what you said, but I used to be a conservative (and not in the vein of the caricature I was employing), it'd be hard for me to misunderstand a position I once held some years ago.

There comes a time where experience and evidence will just not go your way, no matter how many what-ifs and "if you would just listen"'s you throw at opposing parties. You cannot add credibility to your position based on unknowns and chance.

Making sure there is an artificial level playing ground between two sides is pointless. I don't believe this is a case of people stifling view points, but rather the view point in question just not holding any merit.

Equating that to censorship is silly. Furthermore utilizing questionable sources to further a point isn't going to help your view point either.


This is a big problem that I've been seeing a lot lately: Liberals and Progressives thinking that they're absolutely right and just, and as such, they should censor those that they perceive as not being right or just. But who is the judge here? How do we really know what is absolutely right or just?

Censorship of any kind is inherently dangerous and detrimental to true progress. Aren't equality, open-mindedness, and freedom of expression paramount to liberal thought? Do you not see the hypocrisy here?

But shouldn't none of this matter? If we're right, should we really need to silence our opponents? If our ideas are fundamentally right, then they should win in a fair and open marketplace of ideas, without the unfair advantage of censorship.

The very fact that you want (or feel the need) to silence your opponent sheds a light on the quality and legitimacy of your ideas. I say this as someone who has always been classically liberal; we have abandoned our true ideals (the ideals which have usually placed us on the right side of history) for radicalism and new forms of bigotry and inequality. The Overton Window has radically shifted and those that were previously on the left are now falling closer to the center-right.

We are a polarized nation and this is reflected in the atrocious line-up of presidential candidates that we have right now.


Literally no one has suggested that we silence opponents. I am not sure how you are confusing me and facebook's curation system not giving attention to certain sources and positions based on their credibility and integrity with actively preventing people from speaking.

Whether your statement is based on disingenuous confusion or simple ignorance doesn't matter at this point because you've made your own post largely irrelevant and quite frankly it ticked me off a little bit that this string of non-sense keeps getting repeated as if it's some defense of rational, critical thought when it's the furthest thing from it at the moment.

All positions and view points cannot get equal play time in the larger conversation -- it would be noisy and a waste of time and ultimately be detrimental to progress. That is not censorship.


"Whether your statement is based on disingenuous confusion or simple ignorance doesn't matter at this point because you've made your own post largely irrelevant and quite frankly it ticked me off a little bit"

Your personal attacks on me are actually proving my point. In your original post, you said:

"In the specific case of conservative politics, why does it matter that it's so skewed? I have absolutely no issue with, in this specific case, conservative politics not receiving much attention."

That's a form of censorship and manipulation, especially because Facebook is not seen as an editorialized news source, but rather as a representation of one's community. You seem to think it isn't censorship though:

"I am not sure how you are confusing me and facebook's curation system not giving attention to certain sources and positions based on their credibility and integrity with actively preventing people from speaking."

This had nothing to do with credibility or integrity. It was a group of people with a very specific political ideology that were subjectively picking news and having it appear in an organic feed, when it was really editorialized.

I'm not confusing you with Facebook's curation system. You're entitled to your opinion. I'm telling you why your opinion shouldn't be applied at scale (in this case, to a system that appears organic) and also why you should care about this not just for this one incident, but for the implications that this has on a larger scale.

So you don't care about conservative views getting silenced here. After all, conservatives are wrong, right? But what if the major media outlet changes it's mind and starts to think liberals are wrong, and thus silences liberal content? How will you feel then? This isn't about political ideologies. It's about the implications of an unprecedentedly large and trusted media outlet taking sides and deliberately influencing it's audience. Liberal or conservative, that's dangerous.


Pointing out that you are misrepresenting what we are talking about is a personal attack? How do personal attacks even lend support for an opposing view point?

I am not sure if you actually read what happened, but this was a case of certain sources being "ignored" because they are borderline tabloids that often push stories that aren't even remotely true. Waiting for another source to pick up the story and then publish it, isn't censorship. It's reasonable.

For this to be censorship based on a specific political ideology following along one side of the spectrum, you'd have to have an example where they let through other sources that are also tabloid-esque but happen to fall along within their opinions and views.

Did the standard for their sources remain relatively constant regardless of the material being discussed? There isn't a clear answer here, but that doesn't make it defacto censorship of one set of particular political opinions. The sources that were discussed aren't credible in any meaningful form. The fact that they happen to be largely conservative seems like a problem conservatives should address instead of calling it censorship.

A good number of posters in this thread seem fine with not bothering to really think of ways that the presented scenario doesn't hold up and completely accept what was stated is what was actually happening. It's a characteristically low standard of evidence and it just so happens that some of you have made it very clear that such a scenario also happens to align with your opinions. It's fantastically hypocritical.

>So you don't care about conservative views getting silenced here.

I am only going to clarify this once more and then I am no longer going to respond to you. I am not encouraging, advocating, enabling silencing of views here. I said I am okay such view points not getting a larger platform or attention, because it's a waste of time. Note that this is not the same as silencing, preventing discussion, outlawing, etc, etc. However, pretending that discussing all view points without considering whether they hold merit or not is somehow a path to better national dialogue is simply unfounded and doesn't make any sense. But that's my opinion, and really wasn't even what happened in the case above. That specific opinion of mine was brought up in response to someone claiming that we should defacto just give everything an equal voice in the national dialogue and somehow not doing so is censorship that will derail rational discourse on a national scale.

>But what if the major media outlet changes it's mind and starts to think liberals are wrong

You seem to misunderstand why this is happening. It's not a matter of opinions swaying. The sources discussed in the article have little to no credibility. The fact that they are all conservative is a problem conservatives might want to address.


But what is the conservative perspective? Have you checked out the party platforms for conservatives for major states like Texas? What are the most oft-used conservative, energy-tapping, get-out-to-vote talking points?

Conservatives are now the minority of this country, but due to bad districting, they have disproportionate electoral power.

And you know, it's not like the GOP needed to be enemies with the scientific community, but that's how they've positioned themselves. The conservative narrative is: scientists lie about global warming, fracking, coal, and other ecological points. Scientists lie about homosexuality. Scientists lie about the efficacy of abstinence, and they lie about condoms.

I think conservatives have been toyed with the GOP repeatedly, and I think it's no coincidence that the GOP is having a crisis, and I think it's both surprising and unsurprising that Donald Trump barely plays the Christian card. The top and only Christian consensus issues are (1) abortion, (2) homosexuality, and (3) sex education in schools. Distracting issues.


The party establishments play the Culture card, you can see Hillary Clinton playing the Culture card all the time. If you really observe, its the Rebels (Sanders and Trump) talking economics, and Establishment(Cruz/Clinton/Bush) talking about Gays, Guns and God.


I think Clinton's main social points in terms of get-out-to-vote issues are abortion and immigration. I don't think Gays, Guns, and God are get-out-to-vote issues for Sanders, Clinton, or Trump. Those votes aren't easy to secure for these candidates.

My point is not that Democrats or the GOP have social issues as part of get-out-to-vote drives. My point is to look at the content of the GOP points, whether on scientific policy or social issues.


Abortion is a cultural issue, and which ever politician talks about Abortion for or against, is playing the classic textbook cultural partisanship game. Immigration is a bit complicated, but can be boiled down to both culture and economics. Clinton talks about tolerance(cultural), Trump talks about jobs(economics) being lost to immigration and open borders.

In my opinion Trump is not about 2016, but we will likely have a President in 2028 who runs on the Trump agenda of Native Populism, in a world of automation and globalization, his message is only going to get popular.


Having a certain set of political views does not necessarily imply that one deliberately manipulates or corrupts information to support those views.

Who cares if journalists donate to the Democratic party? Does that mean that they are omitting information or lying? If they are, show evidence of that, not that they donated to a particular party.

Conservative sources like those mentioned in the article have been repeatedly shown to distort the truth or even outright lie when the facts don't fit their agenda. Facebook is right to omit them because they are not reliable sources of information.

The idea that we even need to know if something is "trending" is ridiculous to begin with. How many times has a celebrity been declared dead on Facebook only to find out that it was a hoax? How many times have we been told we have to declare our copyright in a Facebook status or Mark Zuckerburg will personally steal all our photos to reprint for profit? The fact that a bunch of people are sharing something is practically useless in determining whether it is a valuable or true piece of information.


[Disclosure: I'm an ex-FB employee.]

This is a bit of a click-bait title, and is somewhat true -- but not in the way you think.

When FB was developing hashtags and content features, there was a concern that it is tough to find a middle-ground between 100% purely algorithmic generated content (i.e. leverage tastes data and supply articles suited to your interests) and 100% curated content (i.e. leverage tastes data, but only show articles from "reputable" sources and/or highly rated content, over shitty blog posts from amateurs.) The latter tends to do really well for engagement, as users can trust that the content they're seeing is reputable and popular. However the big concern that a number of us were raising was that tech companies have employees that are very biased in ways that they cannot control: they're younger, more liberal, and somewhat higher income, than the average FB user.

In my time there, I never heard of _explicit_ suppression of any viewpoints - with the exception of recent disagreements around the "Black Lives Matter" protests, the first time that I encountered a situation where disagreeing meant you were labelled a "racist" - but I can see why well-intentioned product and policy decisions led FB content down this hole.


Crazy, there was someone who just posted a rant against BLM in response to this s3r3nity's comment and it was deleted like two minutes ago. Does HN suffer from the same censorship that Facebook does?


It's still here, but we detached it and marked it off-topic: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11662530.


Sometimes, HN commenters realize that their own comment was ill-considered and use the "delete" link on the comment to eradicate the ill-considered post.

Since the basic, overt user-facing functionality of the site can explain the action without invoking heavy-handed moderation, I see no reason to suspect the latter.


Nothing wrong with that -- as HN readers we can flag / downvote comments and perform our own collective self-censorship (for better or worse).


except when HN readers flag comments they show up as dead and are in grey text, whereas this was entirely deleted


The poster can delete their post within 2 hours, right?


The American two-party system is so weird. It tries to condense a complex matrix of sometimes-overlapping and fluid opinion scales -- socially conservative vs. socially liberal, globalist vs. protectionist, environmentalist vs. laissez-faire capitalist, and so on -- into one binary value. And somehow people have become convinced that not only is such a binary scale meaningful, but also the only available choice.

In many European democracies there's a functional multi-party system where parties appear and disappear over time to reflect voters' opinions. For example, there might be a protectionist right-wing party that's favored by farmers, and another one that supports free trade and listens to big business. Same happens on all the axes. Governments are formed as coalitions of these "SMB-sized" parties based on the votes. It's not "winner takes all", but rather "winners and not-so-bad-losers negotiate to find common ground".

What if the Republican and Democratic parties would break up into 6-10 new parties to better represent the actual opinions of the existing divisions within these parties?

Statistics like "88% of journalists are anti-conservative" show how difficult it's to say anything meaningful about a polarized political field. To look at it another way, that 12% is roughly the level of support that extreme right-wing political parties enjoy in Europe these days. Lumping 88% of European voters together as one party would be ridiculous because that party would contain both former communists and free-trade globalists.


Agreed, and to me, this is a direct result of media organizations' extreme biases in America. This seems to be the missing link. I don't know of many non-American hyper-conservative media organizations that have directly tied their profit motive to how virulently their viewers believe that POV and are WILDLY successful at it.


No, it's a result of the voting system. It will never change unless the Constitution changes. The best you can hope for without constitutional change is something like Britain; i.e. still a two-party system but less extreme differences. I think the extreme differences in the US vs the UK is less because of the media (british media is nastier than US in many ways) and more because UK society is more unified.


> It will never change unless the Constitution changes.

Not necessarily, there's still quite a lot of wiggle-room: Except for some narrow areas (Electoral College, impeachment, vacancies, etc.) the Constitution doesn't narrowly define votes as single data-points.

If nothing else, individual states can use "better than plurality" systems to determine their picks for State and Federal legislature.


I hate how Silicon Valley culture makes it seem like they are all for freedom of information and how the big bad government is censoring and surveilling things from a bunch of innocent hackers (startup guys) when in reality if given the opportunity this crowd does the EXACT same thing. I have limited respect for either party


Tech companies are not immune to the negative side effects that come with large centralized institutions, even if it started in Silicon Valley. I don't believe we're ignorant to this fact.

We tend to rally against centralization and attempts to control information. Which is exactly why this is frontpage on HN.

FB has been consistently attacked for this type of stuff for years. That's a healthy sign of our community valuing freedom/markets/algorithms over the risks of handing over large amounts of power to a few humans. It seems even Facebook even values this approach as their own technology reaches parity with human curation:

> Several former curators said that as the trending news algorithm improved, there were fewer instances of stories being injected.


The issue is that FB advertises itself as "conduit" or "network connection". You log in, communicate with people and the site tools, FB runs ads on your eyeballs, etc.

Similar to how I give my electricity provider money, and they give me electricity.

Now FB clearly sees themselves as (let's be honest) a "power broker" or "rain maker". Not the same as "utility" or "network connection" or "conduit".


Right, and suppressing news that fits a certain criteria is a really obvious method of control — let's not forget that their algorithms suppress/highlight the people you interact with on their site.

I don't want to wander too far into conspiracy territory... but it's not completely unreasonable to suspect that a platform with such widespread and frequent use could knowingly make tiny adjustments to make a gentle push on society in one direction or another.

Also see previously: Facebook's study to see how content alters users' moods.


I don't think I've looked at Facebook like that at all since they started using an algorithmic newsfeed. I was under the impression that that confirmed them as a "power broker" to pretty much everyone. If you're looking for a "utility" or "network connection" I'd direct you to app.net if they're even still in business


I hadn't ever experienced Facebook as anything I felt control over until a few weeks back, when I started ruthlessly pruning stories from people who are serial clickbait sharers. Then I found a few pages (seal watching photos, small town news for my hometown, and urban development) that interested me and set them to always show at the top of my feed. Next I set five or so friends as my best friends. Now, when I log in I get updates about my close friends and my interests, as well as knowing whose birthday it is. If I want news, I can look at the trending news items, where they actually write headlines correctly.


The problem is that this is how Facebook advertises themselves. I don't think the above poster was looking for something outside of what Facebook said they did as a business model. Zuckerberg literally said he wants to be "electricity"


Twitter even, for the most part as far as I understand gives you complete control over your feed, with the (minor?) exceptions of promoted tweets and suggested followers.

It's worth noting the candidate who has been most successful (or at least taken advantage of it) on that platform might fit the parent article's definition of conservative (or at least the sort of content they are suppressing).


Hasn't Twitter recently been tweaking user feeds based on algorithms? Pretty sure I've been seeing mine out of order, with all manner of "you might have missed" and "stuff we think is relevant to you" tweets injected at the top. I think I recently had to flip a setting to try turning off this "stuff we think is relevant to you" off. Maybe that's the promoted tweets, or are those the ads?


And _that_ is the real value of media. Advertising always was a side business.


Agree. New Media would be a better classification.


I, and most of my friends, are liberal minded. After The Guardian established a policy of (ironically) closing comments on their Comment Is Free section when the article relates to refugees or Muslims, I decided to include sites like Fox, Breitbart etc. into my daily feed. (I found the reflex to stifle debate deplorable and wanted to step outside the echo chamber).

Discussions with friends have become more interesting for sure as I reveal their biases.

From defending real violence over threats of violence, (Trump rallies and protests) to ignoring crime statistics, to just being woefully ignorant of what position the other side actually holds, it's incredible to see just how steadfast the Left can be in their ignorance.


Reading this must make China feel they made the right decision in banning Facebook. Not that they care about liberal v. conservative, but having their population manipulated by a cabal of Ivy Leaguers is a non-starter. The Chinese will run their own manipulation program, thank you very much.

Other governments may be starting to come to the same conclusion.


Some newspapers have well known left or right leanings. But its declared and out in the open. Most people thought Facebook news was organically trending. That's the difference here.


  > Most people thought Facebook news was organically trending. 
“They trust me. Dumb fucks.”


Protocol #12:4 - “NOT A SINGLE ANNOUNCEMENT WILL REACH THE PUBLIC WITHOUT OUR CONTROL. All news items are received by a few agencies from all parts of the world. These agencies will be entirely in our control and will give publicity only to what we dictate to them.”


It has been blatantly clear something is up with their Trending algorithm when you notice there is a Trending: Hillary Clinton header on top of every single shared Bernie Sanders article. Never once have I seen a Trending: Bernie Sander header.


Given Facebook's influence and the sheer size of their userbase, the potential long-term implications of this particular kind of manipulation are... unsettling.


I am not surprised Facebook has been doing this.

It's ironic. Silicon Valley is all about question the authorities. Ask why.

And now we hear stories like these Orwellian like practices...

This will be another interesting topic historians will examine years from now. What happens when an outsider/outcast/underdog group becomes the insiders/powerful. Do they act like tycoons in the past (using power to preserve itself) or keep true to the spirit of outsider/outcast that may lead to its demise?

I vote for Silicon Valley powers becoming like the past tycoons.


I once watched a group of pigeons in a park fight for food. The biggest pigeon bullied all the other pigeons. I thought that was unfair... he was getting all the food. So I shooed him away. Immediately afterwards, one of the formerly bullied pigeons became the new bully.

Power is a funny thing... and I suspect people aren't so different than other animals in this regard.


For anyone interested in this shift in power, check out futurist Alvin Toffler's Powershift.

His thesis is that the pinnacle of power throughout time as technology has evolved has shifted from brute strength, to money in the industrial age, and now finally to information in the post-industrial age which we live in now.

http://www.amazon.com/Powershift-Knowledge-Wealth-Violence-C...


I suspect this is more a result of the media's heavy pro-Clinton bias rather than any overt attempt by Facebook. Remember that the mainstream media is ultimately the primary driver of these algorithms.


Actually.. Hillary has received the most negative media articles out of any candidate, including Trump.

http://www.vox.com/2016/4/15/11410160/hillary-clinton-media-...


That's really a pretty useless analysis. By that metric, the media had an overwhelming bias towards Lincoln Chaffee.

In fact, it directly supports the scenario the OP brought up. Frequently Bernie Sanders will bring something up and then the media focuses its article on Hillary's response (even if that article might sometimes be unflattering).


Who's Lincoln Chaffee?

What this shows is the media has a positive bias towards Kasich and Sanders, neither of which were received as such by voters. What it also shows is media bias doesn't always win votes or elections.


> Who's Lincoln Chaffee?

Exactly.

> What this shows is the media has a positive bias towards Kasich and Sanders, neither of which were received as such by voters.

No, what it shows is that the media writes way more articles about Clinton, positive and negative.

Imagine the media writes 2 articles about Sanders, one negative and one positive. And then it writes 20 about Clinton, 11 negative and 9 positive. Who is it biased in favor of?


http://www.vox.com/2016/4/15/11410160/hillary-clinton-media-...

has percentages. You are saying the media is biased towards no one, or has equal biases?


how can you be sure those results arent specifically targeted at you and your habits?


It's crazy how Facebook and Google could tip the scale during Election Year http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/how-google-co...


This seems like a story built specifically for a segment on Fox News where the newscasters feign shock and horror that their news topics aren't being covered by "mainstream media".

Of course trending news is curated. All hell would break loose otherwise.

There is no shortage of rabid political content conservative or otherwise on Facebook. A good part of the end user community would rather not deal with it.


An angry conservative who worked at Facebook was shocked and horrified when he was instructed to remove the breitbart 'story' about how Obama is actually a secret Muslim terrorist from Benghazi and is throwing a hissy fit all over the internet.

Not necessarily the case, but this is certainly my initial assessment of the situation without learning more.


Yeah, without some concrete examples it's hard to know exactly what is going on here.

That said, Facebook is certainly not coming out of this smelling like roses. The "Top Stories" mode is horrible, and Facebook tries really really hard to force you into it, especially on mobile. IMHO it is going to be the death of them in the long term. When they're yet another Friendster/MySpace/etc... this is what I'm going to point to.


when did myspace algorithmically autosort news stories? the products arent even in the same category.


In terms of now defunct social networks...

Ok, Myspace isn't technically dead, but its heyday is definitely over.


but youre comparing two completely different products that get lumped into the same "social network" category, when really the have very little in common anymore.

myspace had profiles, that was it.


To get two points right out of the way:

1. I completely agree that the mainstream media in the U.S. (and in most parts of the world) is very biased and partisan.

2. I also agree that, as private companies, both Facebook and the mainstream media are in their complete right to proceed with their business as they see fit, within the legality of it anyway. I don't believe whatever it is that they do is a First Amendment (the rule forbidding the government from suppressing freedom of speech, assembly, etc) matter although it can be a freedom of speech (the natural right) matter.

With that out of the way the main reasoning of this post.

The great promise of the Internet in general and social media in particular is that, maybe for the first time in history, the natural rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly come together in this amazing technological manner and, at least in principle, without the need for authorization and without the interference of powerful third parties like the government or the elite.

People can exchange thoughts and ideas, coordinate, and interact instantaneously all across the globe without the need of long travel or intermediaries relaying those messages.

There was even an implicit promise, an unrealized one when, in many of the big public manifestations of the beginning of this decade the so called "Social Media Revolution" helped to magnify the voice of the people in the streets, to help them to coordinate outside the graps of their governments (that usually have full control of both the media and the old means of communication like landlines and mobile phones).

And these new companies (like FB, Twitter, Reddit to name a few) capitalized on that claim too, posting themselves as bastions of freedom of speech, the tools for people to change the world, one hashtag at a time.

Now, the damnedest thing: with each revelation like this one it becomes apparent that "the king is dead, long live the king".

These companies, far from providing the means for people to communicate, to freely exchange thoughts and ideas, they try to shape and mold these ideas just like the very tools the government and the oligarchy uses to control the people.

If it is real that Facebook does that (and there is no reason to doubt) that betrays the people a lot more than the examples you mention. I believe people, after all these centuries since the printing press (now synonymous with journalism) are used to the idea that it is biased, partisan and, in general unreliable.

But when it is their very words and thoughts that are being distorted, the ones from their friends, their neighbors, whose opinions and ideas can be amplified or muted at will depending on whether they conform or not to the gateway controllers agenda, that in my opinion is the ultimate betrayal by those companies.

Assuming this and many other suspicious about their behavior is true Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and the social media in general is betraying the people a lot worse than the mainstream media are.

[1] The Social Media Revolution: Exploring the Impact on Journalism and News Media Organizations [2010]: http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/202/the-social-media-re....

[2] If You Doubt That Social Media Has Changed The World, Take A Look At Ukraine [2014]: http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2014/01/18/if-you-dou....

[3] Welcome to the social media revolution [2012]: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-18013662

(recycling this post made to the duplicated thread, but still appropriate to this one)


I would agree that the free exchange of ideas is the great promise of the internet, but I disagree that Facebook or any high traffic website has any responsibility to blindly post what is popular.

That kind of thing is relegated to smaller and active communities that can decide for themselves what content to exchange.

A highly trafficked global community has to be managed differently, and a system that is completely democratic will be gamed because of the eyeballs it has in front of it.

Facebook, Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, etc. are all sites that have been heavily targeted by astroturfing campaigns. They've all attacked that problem in their own ways, and they all have failed spectacularly.

One way of attacking the problem is curating popular content. It works but it doesn't. Show me the website that has more than a few million daily visitors that has democratized information, and I'll show you a website that is being gamed by marketers. (Seriously... because if it isn't already, I'd love to make a quick buck)


Regardless of political opinion, I think it's disgraceful to only show biased views.


Since when is grace relevant at all? It's pretty apparent how effective Fox News is, graceful or not.


"Disgraceful" is not the inverse of "graceful" in modern English, the former meaning "shameful" while the latter means "elegant".


That is partially what I meant. They are deceptive, yet effective, just like Fox News.


I disagree - It's a private company's prerogative to display whatever content they wish - A competitor could choose to suppress liberal articles.

As long as they are not breaking any relevant speech laws, then I see nothing wrong with their actions. If we shut down all biased media, all we'd really be left with is the BBC (although a large number of people would disagree here)


They absolutely have a right to display what they want. However, just as Fox News gets slammed for claiming to be "fair and balanced", Facebook should be shown the same contempt for claiming their news is in any way an actual representation of what is trending on Facebook. They have a right to do it, but that doesn't mean users have to be ok with it. Furthermore, I would much rather have a biased editorial process that is run by people that have at least been exposed to so form of media ethics, than a bunch of tech managers telling recent Ivy-league graduates what to curate.


It is perfectly possible to affirm that a company has the legal right to do whatever they wish, while at the same time arguing that you find it disgraceful.

Specifically with regards to Facebook, they position themselves as a platform and not as a publisher, so it's not that strange that they're being held to the standards that we expect from a platform, of which neutrality is a big one.


> It's a private company's prerogative to display whatever content they wish

True, but it could be argued that users are reasonable in assuming that Facebook is a neutral or automatic platform, not manually manipulating content to achieve political goals. If that is true the ethics of misleading millions of people is at best questionable.


I see your point. They are a private company, they have their right to display what they wish, just as we have the right to not view it.


It really bothers me that acceptable forms of protests are now: intimidation(1), harassment(2), and subversion(this).

If your cause is just, isn't a non-violent protest enough? Speaking about it, voting with your dollar, etc?

1) http://gizmodo.com/okcupid-tells-users-not-to-use-firefox-be...

2)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRS_targeting_controversy


I see no intimidation for (1), just a straightforward statement of preference. (2) is not considered acceptable. And I'm going to bet that this behavior is not going to be considered acceptable either. Certainly the linked story doesn't portray it as acceptable, and at the moment nearly every HN comment here is critical.


1) Is indeed intimidation and no better than what FB did here (abuse of market position). Apple didn't prevent Firefox installs on their laptops in response to Proposition 8. They issued a strong, party neutral (And well worded IMHO) statement. 1) lead to the encouragement and harassment of an individual. Just because a person, doesn't have the same opinion as you, or is being a jerk to someone else, does NOT give you the right to do the same to them. Two wrongs do not make a right. Get your heads straight.


Isn't your first example actually an example of "voting with your dollar" (or in case of a free product, voting with your usage)?


(1) is just straight-up speech. I find Mozilla's firing of Eich a disgusting example of political discrimination and stifling of free speech, and encourage everybody to boycott their products. — See, it's just speech.


The problem is, as a private company, should Facebook choose to manipulate it's news feed algorithm to promote one candidate or the other, or for whatever reason, this would be its prerogative under the First Amendment. I personally choose to not use Facebook specifically for these reasons. Even though I know many Facebook employees personally, I don't trust it's employees to divorce their own interests and their powerful position as Facebook's curators.


Any democratic country depends on the quality of public discourse for the effectiveness of its political system, and for this reason many countries have special rules for newspapers and TV.

What's important here is that Facebook is not covered by those laws, simply because it did not exist when the laws were created. In my view it should be covered by those laws.

One defence Facebook might consider is to say that it simply reflects the preferences of its readers algorithmically. However, this article shows that is not the case, and that the company does exercise editorial judgement. Of course, the design of the algorithms is tacit editorialising anyway, so the whole point is moot to me.

While we are considering the fact that FB is a private company (actually a public company), some might be inclined to say that if users realise Facebook cannot be trusted, then they will leave the site causing its revenues to decrease. Other more honest and transparent competitors will take its place. However, in practise there are many reasons to think this won't happen, which is why we have special laws for the press in the first place.


> What's important here is that Facebook is not covered by those laws, simply because it did not exist when the laws were created. In my view it should be covered by those laws.

Is Fox "News" covered by these laws? Surely you're not suggesting with a straight face that Fox News is "fair and balanced" ?


Are you suggesting with a straight face that CNN "News" is fair and balanced? Or perhaps any of the myriad of blatantly politically charged companies out of Silicon Valley?

It happens on both sides, and it wouldn't be unreasonable to argue that the left is much more guilty of this than the right. Fox News has become a meme because it is the only mainstream news source that blatantly shows conservative bias. Try pointing to mainstream news sources that blatantly show liberal bias and you'd lose count.


> Are you suggesting with a straight face that CNN "News" is fair and balanced?

No, it just has slightly weaker right-wing bias than Fox.


That's why they support Hillary.


CNN (and many other media companies) support Hillary because they are pro-corporate and pro-status-quo.

They have de facto supported nonsensical positions because CNN pioneered the "two sides to every argument" stupidity in their effort to look "unbiased". CNN's reporting is heavily distorted, but the distortion is usually giving credibility when it isn't deserved. Fox simply pushes their agenda directly, while CNN gives cranks a stage no matter how stupid their position is, because calling out even the obviously wrong is "biased". Often this involves conservative opinions (for varying definitions of "conservative"), but almost every opinion of every topic gets the same treatment from CNN.


I think in the US newspapers are more constrained in their biases, but as you say TV stations do take editorial views. But, as an example of regulation, only US citizens can own TV station in the US. Additionally, no single US TV station has anything like the viewer share that Facebook has.


facebook is a public company insofar as a single person having the only vote


> it's news feed algorithm to promote one candidate ... would be its prerogative under the First Amendment

As long such practices are declared.

People tend to look at "what's trending" in an effort to optimize/manipulate their content so that users would "trend" on it. The fact that FB was artificially eliminating stories gave false results to observers.

Another way of looking at this is if Nielson were to lower the rankings of shows it disagrees with and affecting the duration of those shows.


Equally important, Facebook, through its contractor curators, was artificially adding stories, giving additional false results to observers.


Nielsen makes specific claims about the meaning of its data to people who pay for that data, so it would be fraud for them to undermine those claims by manipulating the data. I doubt Facebook does anything similar.


What about to the advertisers? If I were a well-funded news outlet with a conservative bias, and I spent money on Facebook, I'd be evaluating my legal options right about now...


I'm not sure this is an issue either. The advertisers were buying advertisements, not space on a trending list.


If they're reordering trends for ideological correctness, it's not a stretch to assume they're doing the same for other content.


> “It was absolutely bias. We were doing it subjectively. It just depends on who the curator is and what time of day it is,” said the former curator.

> Other former curators interviewed by Gizmodo denied consciously suppressing conservative news, and we were unable to determine if left-wing news topics or sources were similarly suppressed. The conservative curator described the omissions as a function of his colleagues’ judgements; there is no evidence that Facebook management mandated or was even aware of any political bias at work.

It sounds like any issues were from curators who weren't being adequately supervised, instead of top-down orders from executives at Facebook.

This is different than what the current Hacker News headline suggests. Can we all collectively read the article and understand that the issue is different than our preconceptions lead us to believe?


Or Facebook has learned the art of Plausible Deniability.

If the bias happens during hiring (by preferring candidates who naturally lean left), then Facebook merely needs to give them curation power without giving explicit instructions.


This sounds too much like a conspiracy theory to take very seriously. Never attribute to malice what you can attribute to incompetence.


> The Facebook CEO was overheard responding that "we need to do some work" on curtailing anti-immigrant posts about the refugee crisis. "Are you working on this?" Merkel asked in English, to which Zuckerberg replied in the affirmative before the transmission was disrupted.

http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/27/angela-merkel-caught-on-hot-m...


Such as the BBC only advertising jobs in the Graun, and wondering why people accuse it of bias.


To be fair, the Sun also do most of their recruitment advertising the in grauniad. The Guardian is the only daily paper with a media recruitment section. It's not surprising that media outlets advertise media jobs in a media recruitment section.


Just because the evidence isn't there doesn't mean there wasn't downward pressure from management. Look at the art of dodging blame as practiced by VW.


There wasn't any evidence and there wasn't any implication from the article. It's very different from the VW scandal.


This does not imply a lack of evidence, though. The appropriate response would be to ask for a deeper inquiry. Otherwise you're just enabling scapegoating if you accept the first view without any question.


> The conservative curator described the omissions as a function of his colleagues’ judgements; there is no evidence that Facebook management mandated or was even aware of any political bias at work.

The person who brought this to light - the one who not only experienced it themselves but also had the most complain about - says that it wasn't anything pushed down by management.


I'm sure his paycheck is entirely unrelated to what he says to the press.


isnt the point of hiring a "curator" to have people select and omit stories based on newsworthiness vs being nonstories?


I would assume this is why they hired people with journalistic backgrounds, but it looks like they should have had some more sophisticated consensus-seeking and quality control mechanisms in place.


i still dont see any report of an actual story being suppressed.

hiding Romney ate honey nut cheerios is very different from hiding Romney donates his breakfast to starving children. The former isnt news, the latter type of suppression would be to purposely create a void of positive Romney stories.

that said, facebook's trending stories are a pile of nonnewsshit anyway, most of them should never be brought to peoples attention by choice.


Irrelevant.

FB is a nuclear weapon. Chain reactions that start there can take out society in a blink. That has to be understood and digested by society. Doesn't matter what the actual story of the day getting filtered is.

Trump has subverted the republican party in 8 months. 8 years ago a community organizer subverted the dems in 2 years. Look at Corbyn, Modi, Kejriwal, Joko etc etc Its thanks to social media and the like pressing herd of programmed robots that populate it.

Who knows how fast a Trump 2.0, 3.0 and then a 4.0 will take to rise. Its just going to get more and more efficient. The people who see this play out real time everyday, whether its Trump, ISIS or Star Wars marketing are those curators on the front lines. They fully understand how fast the process can work.

They are totally unprepared and untrained on what to do if things are unravelling. Its not surprising at all that some take it upon themselves to act like control rods.

Time to take a serious look at...China...yes China. Cause control rods are necessary.


So basically you oppose democracy?


You don't? The Founders did, vehemently[0].

[0] http://www.theunion.com/opinion/7699648-113/democracy-majori...


I am a conservative and I see nothing wrong with this. It is their software and their servers, after all.

I want a collapse in trust in the major social networks. This is the internet we are talking about. Let them suppress, and let them see what happens.


From an extremely pure free-market conservative/capitalist approach, sure, there is nothing wrong with this, they can do what they want.

From a basic governmental regulation (Hayek) monopoly approach, FB is the incumbent and it will be extremely difficult for anyone else to gain a foothold here. Regulation ought to make it easier for others to approach the space. They are the single biggest voice in the news at this point, and whatever stances they support has an inestimable advantage in ways that far outstrip campaign finance contributions or lobbying. They may have to be governmentally disrupted to keep their power from becoming too great.

From a consumer labeling perspective, Facebook is profiting off improperly calling articles "trending" that are just their preferred way to view the world.

I just wonder if these articles go far enough to collapse any trust.


FB is the incumbent and it will be extremely difficult for anyone else to gain a foothold here

"Will MySpace Ever Lose Its Monopoly?" (2007): https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2007/feb/08/business....


I don't think I need to explain the myriad reasons MySpace lost.


You certainly do not.

To your point, back in the day, I was having lunch with David Boies (yeah, I know, name dropping, but relevant) and re: Microsoft he said that his position was that EVERY company should have the opportunity to become a monopoly, but then to not be able to use that power of monopoly to deny that chance to others.

My concern with regulatory or judicial constraints here is -- they're always too late. Be it IBM in the 60s or ATT in the 80s or Microsoft in the late-90s/early-2ks, by the time the government gets around to doing anything, the company is already being eroded from beneath.

I think the only (national) example I can think of, in the US, is AT&T, which was able to keep their position because of government licensure. i.e. Natural monopolies don't occur as often as people claim. Incumbency buys patrimony.

Maybe this should go to GP: IF a monopoly arises, AND that entity takes advantage of their monopoly position (reduced quality for price, outrageous margins) almost always, a challenger will appear. And get funded.


If this was a partisan media outlet like CNN, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, etc etc ad nauseam or FOX news (is there any other conservative network?), then yeah this would be expected.

The issue here is for the 'unsuspecting user' Facebook doesn't present itself as a partisan resource. There's nothing 'wrong' with this per se as long as the user understands who they are dealing with, which articles like this one help in that respect.


> FOX news (is there any other conservative network?)

Not on TV. Fox Business has quite a lot of libertarians (and some really, really devote Trump supporters). CNN did hire some conservatives who are actual conservatives recently (e.g. Mary Katharine Ham), but it really doesn't change the editorial.


They're not unsuspecting anymore.


> This is the internet we are talking about. Let them suppress, and let them see what happens.

As long as it gets out you mean?


This is the internet we are talking about.


I'd be interested to know a little bit more about how this relates to the news sites that are covering the story. Breitbart isn't much better than a tabloid--arguably worse, even. It's equivalent to leftwing sites like Alternet, which I also wouldn't expect Facebook to be comfortable linking to.


The article says they censor the Drudge Report, which is much more reliable than Breitbart.


I'm confused by this comment, because to my eyes the Drudge Report frontpage looks like it was consciously modeled on tabloids. Obviously for historical reasons they have some importance--but so do some tabloids.

To clarify, I think this an issue of respectability, not reliability.


Keep in mind that this allegation is coming from a single conservative curator who no longer works there.

And even he seems pretty indecisive about it being an institutional bias: "I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz."

If Facebook is trying to suppress conservative news, they're doing a terrible job of it. I see far more Trump than I would like.


Apparently it's not coming from a single curator. The manipulation of the trending section was much wider spread than that:

"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."

The article then mentions a second curator that also admits anti-conservative bias:

"Another former curator agreed that the operation had an aversion to right-wing news sources. 'It was absolutely bias. We were doing it subjectively. It just depends on who the curator is and what time of day it is,' said the former curator."


> Keep in mind that this allegation is coming from a single conservative curator who no longer works there.

This is false, the headline even alludes to it being more than a single source. The entire article uses plural terms and refers to 'several.' I think you read the lede, but skipped the rest.


From the article:

> Other former curators interviewed by Gizmodo denied consciously suppressing conservative news, and we were unable to determine if left-wing news topics or sources were similarly suppressed. The conservative curator described the omissions as a function of his colleagues’ judgements; there is no evidence that Facebook management mandated or was even aware of any political bias at work.


The more I hear about what Facebook has become, the less I like it.

Previously we heard that they run experiments to alter users news feeds to see if they could alter their mood, now we learn they're engaging in what is basically propaganda by suppressing certain viewpoints. And all this for what? So that you can be advertised to while you waste your time on the internet. What a terrible company. Speaks ill of humanity that it is so popular.


Anecdotal: apparently this isn't work for me. My news feed is FILLed with conservative election news. How can I enable this feature ;)


This is about the trending news section (top right of the screen on desktop), not the newsfeed.


Different feature: trending is a box full of subjects, none of which you may be subscribed to.


Apparently you are too conservative according to Facebook? Or too many friends that are conservative?


He probably has too many conservative friends. FB seems to think that just because you've "friended" people that you want to see, and agree with, all the inane political bullshit they post.

One of many reasons I don't use FB. I keep an account on there for a few reasons, but I almost never actually look at it.


People are people. In a way this isn't news at all.

The problem is that these companies are hiding behind the "But it's all just an algorithm" defense, when, in fact, as we all suspected, there are real people behind the scenes slanting things.

My gut tells me that a lot of tech companies are subtly controlling the types of news their consumers get. Overall this is probably a good thing -- helps keep the quality high. But I'm a libertarian. If a bunch of left-leaning folks start controlling what I consume from a political angle and not just quality angle -- and then lie about it? Really pisses me off.

Yes, you're a private company. Do whatever you want. It's the lying that's the problem here -- and the implication that the electorate needs people better than they are to control and guide what they're allowed to talk about.

I bet we continue to hear about this, and in places most people would never suspect, over the coming decade or two. This is unacceptable, and something is going to need to give somewhere.


> controlling the types of news their consumers get

Of course they are. They control the medium. What a lot of people don't seem to understand is that "it's just an algorithm" isn't a defense. Just because a process involves calculation doesn't make the entire process free of bias or agenda.

The basic decision to use an algorithm is an opinionated decision that affects the outcome. Personal opinion influences how an algorithm was chosen or designed, how it will be applied, the selection of input data, and every other decision made during implementation.

Yes, some time may not intend to add their own bias and opinion, but it still happens. Jacob Appelbaum recently[1] discussed this problem; "Your politics are in everything that you write". The same is true for software and algorithms in general. Your politics are in everything you design. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it exists, and pretending that an an algorithm is "unbiased" or otherwise free from human influence and manipulation is foolish.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJValv4YQcY#t=78


But that's not what the article said. They had a conservative on staff who was in charge of these feeds, and he wasn't cutting out conservative articles, he was cutting out articles that supported candidates he didn't like.

As long as you choose to consume their product, you get the results of their work. Don't like it? Go somewhere else. You should appreciate that as a libertarian.

I see no harm in excluding articles from Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Newsmax. Or Alternet for that matter. Those aren't news organizations. They're propaganda tabloids which consume the work of Reuters and the AP and regurgitate it with a ton of spin.


>As long as you choose to consume their product, you get the results of their work. Don't like it? Go somewhere else.

Except when you don't know what you aren't seeing.

>Those aren't news organizations. Breitbart has teams of reporters and editors, so does Infowars. Breitbart has offices in different locations, such as London and the U.S. Breitbart has it's reporters following the campaign and they get many exclusives. If we all should agree they aren't news orgs, then the HuffPost isn't a news org.


Who said that HuffPo was a news org? They're an ideological blog. Just like Breitbart is an ideological blog. Having offices doesn't make one a news org.

Why are you making arguments against claims I never made? Also, why do libertarians hate it so much when people use their own basic ideology against them?


> Having offices doesn't make one a news org.

No, having reporters and editors who cover current events does. The reason I brought up huffpost was anyone saying breitbart isn't news, immediately I'd have to test them with HuffPo. You know to spot the hypocrite. But anyway, HuffPo and Breitbart are both news orgs like it or not. News has always been slanted whether by selective coverage or the way things are framed. Example: 2 stories about refugees, one covers a family (with photos) where the children speak english (outliers) The other covers a boat load of military age males (again with photos), talks about concern over violence and culture war.

Both would be news stories. One you're likely to find in NPR or the Washington Post, the other you'll find on Breitbart. Sorry you're wrong about what's a news source and what's not. feel free to comment on quality or slant though.

>Why do libertarians... I don't know, ask them.


So facebook is a news site? Or a connector of people?


I must have lost track of the law that said that all things must be monolithic in their nature. Facebook is a connector of people that uses news to keep people interested an on the site.


EDIT: No sir, there is no such law that said that all things must be monolithic in their nature.

So, distort stories to keep eyeballs of main customers (younger hence more liberal) on Facebook, for the sake of earning more ad dollars?

I think the younger customers deserve more than that? Should give more credit to the younger generation no?


It's plainly clear that you didn't read the article, so there's nothing further to discuss.


Genuinely curious:

As a libertarian, are you equally pissed off when a bunch of right-leaning folks start controlling what you consume from a political, and not just quality, angle—and then lie about it?


For the past couple of decades, there's been some amount of affinity between Libertarians and conservatives. That's likely because the conservatives pay lip service to ideals of "smaller government", which is central to libertarianism. However, that really is just lip service, and so that alliance is a very [un]easy one.

Even aside from that friction, there is some potential affinity between Libertarians and Liberals, because Libertarians see no governmental role in issues like gay marriage and use of medication/drugs. Because both groups seek similar outcomes in those areas there would be room for cooperation. But (IMHO) the Liberals are too antagonistic of property rights and self defense rights for this potential to be realized.

Aside from political affinities, I think the real thrust of the parent post was that FB's actions are fraudulent: the product they're delivering to you differs in an important (to some people) way from what they claim they're delivering. In libertarian philosophy, fraud is just one form of force, which is the core evil: the central tenet of libertarianism is to not initiate force against another person.

So at the risk of putting words in someone else's mouth: yes, a libertarian would be equally pissed off if the issue were the mirror of what we see here.

EDIT: end of first para - omitted the "un", significantly changing meaning!


Really well-articulated points, thanks. It'd be great to see some less-partisan unifying around this central tenet and others.


Not the OP, but I'm someone who leans libertarian, and Trending Topics is one of the reasons I deactivated my Facebook account. I wasn't interested in most of the trending stories, they were often news stories designed to make people sad or angry, and that's not what I want to feel when visiting Facebook. I couldn't find a way to hide that feature either - so like bad advertising, it was always there annoying me.

I would have preferred if the trending topics learned what I was interested in. I'm not averse to curation (either way), but I'd prefer that users were ultimately in control of their own filters. Even if that filter is "never show any politics, only show cat videos".


Another genuinely curious:

Any chance your departure from FB coincided with that little social feed experiment they performed to see if they could manipulate people's emotions?


Funny you mention that! I left in October 2015, so it was long after their emotion contagion experiment. But I've often wondered if I fell into that experiment group, because I've felt much happier & calmer since leaving Facebook.

I've deactivated my account for short periods before, so it's possible I may have deactivated previously during the experiment. But 7 months is the longest I've stayed deactivated & I have no desire to return to FB this time.


Not the PP, but yes, I am for the most part equally pissed at anyone that injects political editorial bias into otherwise factual news.

And I am also meta-pissed when a bunch of money/power-leaning folks start influencing the propaganda themes of both the bunch of left-leaning folks and the bunch of right-leaning folks. Media consolidation just makes that particular channel wider and deeper.

I am not pissed that there is a conservative talk radio station on my FM spectrum, and no other talker on the dial within range. Their bias is open and obvious. if I don't like it, I can listen to one of the 50 identical Bain Capital/THL Partners (IHeartMedia) or Oaktree Capital Management (Cumulus) stations. And I am pissed about that.


Yeah, I feel you—especially on the meta-pissed point. Media consolidation really bothers me. I haven't listened to radio in years and genuinely feel a bad mood start whenever I'm around it.


Yes libertarians would be pissed if right-leaners control news. But the topic here is facebook. Let's stay on topic.


Stop telling people what the topic is, please. This is a public forum, you can't control other people's conversations, or determine the validity of their interests.

Post a comment about Facebook that's worth replying to if you want to steer things away from politics.


@krapp

EDIT: I said stay on topic, because some will try to go tangent to prevent meaningful discussion on the real topic. Much like politicians not answering questions. This achieves one's goal of causing FUD to keep the person/organization's brand from getting tarnished.

If facebook comes out saying it's not true, will anyone really believe them, knowing their past practices?

Facebook has a lot of eyeballs looking and thus influence, and so the higher-ups there now want to use it to influence others. Much like celebrities do.

And they got to such position of influence using not so good tactics. Are people ok with this? My guess is not.


I am staying on topic. That I ask a followup to identify the extent of where someone stands on an issue isn't going off-topic. The parent made a statement about ideological leaning informing their ire toward information suppression. I was curious if it was one-way ire. Since you aren't the parent, I don't think you're able to answer my question.

Moreover, the topic here isn't just Facebook, but their suppression and intentional modification of news and information based on a specific ideological bias.


I believe both right and left news medias filter out stories to meet own agenda. No question about that imo.

The problem here is Facebook never claimed to be a news site but a connector for people. But here we find out they were acting as a left leaning news site or a powerbroker.


TL;DR 'Trending News' is actually 'Curated News'


Thanks to a tool that specifically allows modifying the news shown to users and the alleged biases of curator contractors who seem to have no accountability checks.


I wouldn't say "no accountability checks." The article references instances where the curators were instructed to boost non-trending stories. So, they are being actively managed. And, presumably can be replaced easily if their curating deviates from Facebook's wishes.


I suppose I meant enforcement of a policy that prohibited modifying the news identified by algorithms.


Let's actually examine the claims:

Among the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder.

What scandals were being discussed yet suppressed from the "trending news" list out of these examples? How many of these examples are actual news stories? The IRS thing turned out to be overblown bullshit, what about the rest of them?

When was the last time you heard your friends talking about Scott Walker, the guy who flopped in the polls and dropped out of the race before a single primary?

It shouldn't be surprising if these curators decided to wait to see if a story being shared from breitbart.com was reported by bigger news outlets first. Many of these so-called conservative media outlets have a terrible record on reporting actual news.

It is possible that Facebook suppresses actual news. It is also possible that this source (falsely) believed that not-really-news-or-trending stories were "suppressed" when in fact they were just not popular or smelt like bullshit.


> What scandals were being discussed yet suppressed from the "trending news" list out of these examples? How many of these examples are actual news stories? The IRS thing turned out to be overblown bullshit, what about the rest of them?

Is that actually true? The IRS' claim that every drive containing copies of the emails failed makes anything I hear from their side completely non-credible, in my opinion. Technically there is a chance of 100% drive failure, so I can't claim with complete certainty that they're full of it, but I think there were at least three 9s of the claim being bullshit the last time I ran through the numbers.


We'd also need counter points that left-leaning news with fluffy content was also rejected to evaluate this fairly.

The claims are that there is a right-leaning bias, if it was a bias against polarized news or poorly sourced articles then this wouldn't be news-worthy.


I always use uBlock's "element picker" to block out trending topic lists as I find them somewhat manipulative.

1) I do sometimes suspect biased curation 2) They can be astroturfed 3) Even if spontaneous there's a virtual mob mentality that comes with trending topics.

Trending topic lists are ok if they're on their own separate page but when you have it upfront the subtext is "this is what you must care or know about".


I am confused why Facebook needs news curators to begin with? Why can't the news just be organic entirely and use ML to curate it per person. I can understand blacklisting certain sites or topics just for pure sanity or appropriateness. Having people as curators just seems like wasted capital.

Anyhow, I find this abhorrent, but I think Facebook has every right to do it as a private entity. I don't think they have a social responsibility to be 100% even. What does bother me is that they claim to be evenhanded, I do want transparency, especially when you are basically the monopoly in social media (excluding Snapchat and Twitter, they own everything.)

This also presents a problem, I think with Twitter's new algorithmic timeline and why the real-time feed is vastly superior for their model (I'll beat this dead horse until Jack realizes how dumb it is.)


What happened to the other thread on this?


Hint: FB is not the only place that has heavy censorhsip.


Too many flags, probably.


If you actually read the article it says "there is no evidence that Facebook management mandated or was even aware of any political bias at work". In other words this title is click-bait bullshit, it was up to the curators discretion.


Note that the source for this is a single self-identified conservative ex-contractor.


And for another grain of salt, it's on Gizmodo, a Gawker property. I often enjoy some of the Gawker sites (esp. Deadspin) but they are openly, unapologetically tabloidy and clickbaity from the top down. Nothing wrong with that as long as the readership understands the nature of the organization. Lots of great articles, but no shortage of clickbait and hyperbole.


That is not true.

"Another former curator agreed that the operation had an aversion to right-wing news sources. “It was absolutely bias. We were doing it subjectively."


Try posting a link to a Breitbart story here on HN. It's silently suppressed. Doesn't even appear in 'new'. Whereas links to rt.com are welcome. That's just how things are, comrade! :)

My previous rant: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11518592


Because Breitbart is one of the least trustworthy sensationalist sources of nonsense on the Internet, right up there with Infowars.

The fact is the truth isn't somewhere in the middle. We shouldn't be encouraging disingenuous assholes by giving them a platform to spread deliberate lies and mis-information, no matter whether that source is "conservative" or "liberal".


I'm actually quite proud of my Breitbart submission. I thought it was a newsworthy story, that added valuable additional information to a topic we had been discussing.

But yeah, let's just call everyone we disagree with "disingenuous assholes". The Breitbart story I tried to submit was: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/09/07/exclusive...

Try clicking on this HN link: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10182135

You can't even see the link at all as an anonymous user. I don't know if it shows up for people to have 'showdead' enabled, or if it's equivalent of a hellban, where I'm the only one who can see it.


Thre is a law in the US where employers must pay foreign workers with H1B Visas at least the average salary in that field. The law is already there to protect US workers. I read the title of that news story and immediately thought this was an "sensational" article targeted towards people who know nothing about how H1B Visa program works.

Now if the autoher of the article you posted was training foreign workers not in the US, that would be a different thing. But the article specifies that the person was in the US. Article has some serious bias against foreign workers even though the facts say otherwise.


breitbart.com is banned, not for being right wing but for being overly sensational. Plenty of comparable left-wing sites are also banned, and plenty of right-wing sites aren't banned (e.g. https://news.ycombinator.com/from?site=nationalreview.com). This isn't an ideological call.

rt.com is penalized but not banned because occasionally good stories show up there. That's true of most media sites on HN, though the weight of the penalty varies. Again not an ideological call.


I missed that but then:

"Other former curators interviewed by Gizmodo denied consciously suppressing conservative news, and we were unable to determine if left-wing news topics or sources were similarly suppressed."

The fact that the allegation comes from a self-identified conservative and complains about extremist outlets like 'Breitbart' being suppressed, suggests that all they cared about was their own agenda being propagated.

They didn't make a list detailing the treatment of extreme left sites e.g. Daily Kos for comparison. It could be that all non-mainstream political sites received the same treatment.

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