That Facebook media bias thing

As a curator, my job was to choose what links would appear on the Facebook “trending” box on the right side of a user’s newsfeed. Every day, I sifted through hundreds of topics (or “keywords”) that Facebook told me were trending on the platform. Then I’d choose a story about the keyword, and come up with a headline and a short summary that would appear on the trending box.

Most, if not all, of what you’ve read about Facebook’s Trending team in Gizmodo over the past few weeks has been mischaracterized or taken out of context. There is no political bias that I know of and we were never told to suppress conservative news. There is an extraordinary amount of talent on the team, but poor management, coupled with intimidation, favoritism and sexism, has resulted in a deeply uncomfortable work environment. Employees I worked with were angry, depressed and left voiceless – especially women.

If you hire whiny millenials to do your story choosing for you then you’ll en up with he stories whiny millenials consider important. There’s no more need to have overt bias than that.

22 thoughts on “That Facebook media bias thing”

  1. The whole company is just a reflection of the whiny millenial founder; why would anyone be surprised?

  2. There’s also of course the infamous conversation that Zuckenberg had with Merkel about suppressing anti-migrant comment. All caught on camera with no room for doubt or nuance.

  3. On the plus side, you might get people who can spell “end” and “the” These millenials !.Can’t afford anywhere to live, student debt, no jobs.Who gives a fuck ? House prices will always rise and make us l rich.Not them ,of course.But its humanly impossible to arrange to have high wages and low rents and property prices.Its been tried but we have evolved something much better. Aren’t we wonderful?

  4. Tel,
    From your second link:

    Managers gave curators aggressive quotas for how many summaries and headlines to write, and timed how long it took curators to write a post. The general standard was 20 posts a day.

    Twenty posts a day?! The poor darlings, they must have been worked to the bone. How long is a post anyway?

    The news curation team writes headlines for each of the topics, along with a three-sentence summary of the news story it’s pegged to, and choose an image or Facebook video to attach to the topic.

    Oh.

  5. The stream-of-consciousness bit isn’t working Reedy. To paraphrase Harrison Ford ” You can write this shit DBC but you can’t believe it.”

  6. OT but re whiny millenials.

    They just voted Sadiq Khan in as London Mayor.
    Well, kiss goodbye to Uber my whiny little Millenials!

    http://capx.co/sadiq-khan-and-the-challenge-for-londons-sharing-economy/

    Khan on Uber:
    ““These private hire vehicles are charging far, far less than black taxis can… I will be the mayor who begins the renaissance of the black taxi. I don’t want them to go the same way as the red telephone box.”

    Oh dear.

    And in other news, Khan promises to revive the flint-knapping, hansom cab, and beaver pelt industries.

  7. “The stream-of-consciousness bit isn’t working Reedy.”

    Until you mentioned him I hadn’t even registered his comment. My brain just glazes over his random spam output now.

  8. I don’t understand the problem. Private company, their gaff, their rules. My local Waterstones sell a ton of the sort of Piketty/Monbiot crap. Maybe they’re a bunch of commies, maybe it’s what sells. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter., but I don’t care. Go and start your bookshop loaded with PJ O’Rourke and Milton Friedman if you think they’re wrong.

  9. DBCReed

    There used to be a famous ‘stream of consciousness’ writer called Igonikon Jack in the comments section of the Telegraph – you read like a Left wing version of him – or indeed some kind of Spambot – please learn to check your prose. Life’s really too short to have to read the same comments 33 times.

  10. Internet company uses expensive “curators” rather than a cheap algorithm.

    The only reason I can see for this uneconomic choice is to put a human thumb on the scales; i.e. propaganda.

  11. bloke in spain,

    The thing with Facebook is that it isn’t like Google which is all about algorithms. It was Zuckerberg doing a social media site, sharing stuff and there were a gazillion sites doing it and because it’s about network effects, it was going to end up on a few companies. There wasn’t a huge difference between Facebook and MySpace or a load of others. One had to win. But it’s not a company with a DNA that’s about experimenting with algorithms like say, Spotify or Google that are founded on the use of them.

    It’s like a company I went into that sold restaurant vouchers, and they had human beings caling to make sales to decide which restaurants would go on there. I’d somehow assumed they had some sort of Dutch auction system or something like Google ads, but instead they had expensive negotiating deals (ok, quite cheap people, but more expensive than a few servers).

  12. So Much For Subtlety

    Stuck-Record – “And in other news, Khan promises to revive the flint-knapping, hansom cab, and beaver pelt industries.”

    Well I am all for a recovery of beavers until there are enough to hunt.

    But pretty much this is the Islamist agenda. Even if they do not mean it. We will get there in the end.

  13. SMFS,
    It’s entirely possible that Khan doesn’t have an Islamist agenda, much in the same way that neither Boris nor Ken had a hidden agenda which matched their tribal group.

  14. It’s entirely possible that Khan doesn’t have an Islamist agenda, much in the same way that neither Boris nor Ken had a hidden agenda which matched their tribal group.

    Boris wasn’t best mates with a bunch of terrorist supporters; and didn’t specialise in defending terrorists.

    Ken’s tribal group was “socialist cunts”. I’ll grant you that his agenda wasn’t hidden though.

  15. “I don’t understand the problem. Private company, their gaff, their rules. My local Waterstones sell a ton of the sort of Piketty/Monbiot crap. Maybe they’re a bunch of commies, maybe it’s what sells. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter., but I don’t care. Go and start your bookshop loaded with PJ O’Rourke and Milton Friedman if you think they’re wrong.”

    You’ve missed the point. Facebook have been pretending that there’s no editorial input in this process, that it’s all done automatically based purely on data. That’s now been exposed as a lie.

  16. So Much For Subtlety

    Andrew M – “It’s entirely possible that Khan doesn’t have an Islamist agenda, much in the same way that neither Boris nor Ken had a hidden agenda which matched their tribal group.”

    I agree none of them have a hidden agenda. Ken is quite open about his Marxist inclinations. Boris, I think, has a semi-transparent agenda – to lay as many Telegraph journalists as possible while getting his name in as many newspapers as he can. It is not that hidden. The question is which is more typical of Khan? Is he openly an Islamist or is he a semi-secret one? Myself, I am inclined to a third position which is he is a weak minded fool who simply parrots what everyone else thinks so when it was cool to be an Islamist, he was an Islamist. Now it is smarter to be a “moderate”, he is pretending to be a moderate. In the end I expect he has few loyalties greater than his Swiss bank account.

  17. I sneeze in threes

    So there is a trending section on Facebook, who knew, I’d not noticed it. Storm in a teacup. Apparently they have ads too.

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