A former journalist who worked on Facebook's influential "trending news" section as a curator, alleged in a report Monday that the social network routinely suppressed news stories conservative readers found interesting.
In the report by tech news outlet Gizmodo the journalist, who identifies as politically conservative, said Facebook workers prevented stories about CPAC, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul and other conservatives from showing up as top news even when they were trending organically among the social network's users.
"Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending," the former Facebook curator told Gizmodo. The individual who was among a handful of conservatives working on the project requested to remain anonymous for the report out of fear of reprisal from Facebook.
"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," said the former curator.
The individual was so troubled by the omission that they kept a running log of them at the time and among them were topics like: 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. "I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news," the former curator told Gizmodo.
Several former Facebook news curators, 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.
Facebook has since denied the report however charging that it has "rigorous guidelines" to ensure political neutrality in the distribution of news to its 1.6 billion users around the globe.
"We take allegations of bias very seriously. Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum. Trending Topics shows you the popular topics and hashtags that are being talked about on Facebook," the company said in an emailed statement to USA Today.
"These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives. Nor do they permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or one news outlet over another. These guidelines do not prohibit any news outlet from appearing in Trending Topics," it added.
Breitbart News editor in chief Alex Marlow told The Guardian however that the report confirmed "what conservatives have long suspected: Facebook's trending news artificially mutes conservatives and amplifies progressives.
"Facebook claims its algorithm simply populates 'topics that have recently become popular on Facebook' in its trending news section, but now we know that's not true."
Paul Bedard, DC reporter for the Washington Examiner, accused the social media network of "censoring conservatives."
Hugo Gurdon, the Washington Examiner's editorial director, said told The Guardian that they want to work with the social network to ensure that their content gets the right attention.
"We've read the report, and it is obviously of considerable interest to us. We plan on working with Facebook to ensure Washington Examiner's valuable content gets the attention it obviously deserves," he said.
Leon Wolf, an author at Redstate, one of the publications listed by the Gizmodo report as a targeted for suppression, told The Guardian that he saw no evidence of tampering.
"I watch our Facebook stats very closely," Wolf told the Guardian. "The troubling thing about this is that Facebook is such a huge deal… They can make or break success in a way that nobody else can. There's a lot of scrutiny that people have on CNN, they're several orders of magnitude less influential than Facebook is."