You should never waste too much time worrying that conservative viewpoints are getting sidelined in the mainstream media. It’s like, whatever. Sounds good to us.
But there’s especially no good reason to weep over recent news, reported by Gizmodo, that Facebook’s algorithms for its trending topics section are allegedly rigged against the political right. Unfortunate as such discriminatory trends may be on the whole, conservatives aren’t alone in getting jerked by the network. They’re just the loudest and whiniest marginalized horde, which is why the rest of us have had to spend the past week hearing about how, as Gizmodo reported (and spokespeople from the social media site contested), “Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section.”
Meanwhile, as reported by former DigBoston Editor Dan McCarthy and is common knowledge in certain circles of visual artists, Facebook has suppressed tasteful nudity for years. From McCarthy’s “Nipplegate” feature: even “the Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project started a petition after Facebook yanked images from their page without warning, presumably likening the pictures to pornography.”
That’s not all. Longtime Dig cannabis columnist Mike “Cann” Crawford has sounded sirens over the past six months over Facebook refusing to allow users to boost posts about marijuana. To quote Crawford’s piece from last November that caused a considerable stir among cannabis consumers: “This is worth noting because this same social media bigfoot profits big time off app games like Pot Farm, and because Facebook happily accepts some seriously objectionable ads,” including many hinged on hate speech.
All that aside, there is some seriously important information in the juice leaked over the past month. Gizmodo grossly exaggerated the treatment of Facebook’s hired “news curators,” portraying their work conditions as akin to the pauper ranks of Scientology in an article titled, “Want to Know What Facebook Really Thinks of Journalists? Here’s What Happened When It Hired Some.” Still it’s worth noting that the social media behemoth farms out its trend-mongering:
According to five former members of Facebook’s trending news team—“news curators” as they’re known internally— … these former curators described grueling work conditions, humiliating treatment, and a secretive, imperious culture in which they were treated as disposable outsiders … News curators aren’t Facebook employees—they’re contractors. One former team member said they received benefits including limited medical insurance, paid time off after 6 months and transit reimbursement, but were otherwise excluded from the culture and perks of working at Facebook.
As a rule of thumb, good things aren’t typically afoot when third party players are involved. Think of how companies hire outside cleaning services to empty garbage cans and mop floors for low wages, or how certain federal agencies store information on private servers, sometimes moving public data beyond the reach of reporters and voters. At Facebook, one of America’s leading innovation companies with enough resources to hire an army, if they neglect the bastard hired hands who purge conservative trash from trending topics, one can only imagine how they treat the freelance censors they presumably employ to sift through pics of nips and grass all day.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.