Zuckerberg to Meet With Leading Conservatives on Facebook Bias Claims

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2016-05-16 Print this article Print
Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg has invited political conservatives to discuss how to keep the Facebook platform open. Glenn Beck wants it to be "as unbiased as the telephone."

Conservative commentator and personality Glenn Beck has accepted an invitation to meet with Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg May 18 to discuss reports of bias in the stories posted to Facebook's Trending Topics section.

Carly Fiorina, former HP CEO, presidential hopeful and Ted Cruz running mate, may also be in attendance Wednesday, according to Beck.

"I hope to join business icon and a woman with a spine of steel, Carly Fiorina," Beck wrote in a May 14 Facebook post that was updated May 15 to confirm his attendance.

Political writer and commentator S.E. Cupp posted to Twitter that she'll also be in attendance.

According to CNN Money, so will Dana Perino, a former White House press secretary under George W. Bush; Arthur C. Brooks, president of the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute; and Zac Moffatt, who may be best known for working as Mitt Romney's digital director.

Beck, in his 500-plus-word post, discussed the importance of having a ubiquitous communication tool also be an unbiased one.

"If it is to be as ubiquitous as Alexander Graham Bell's invention, it must remain as unbiased as the telephone, otherwise it too will fracture or fall apart over time due to competitors who will carve out their own place without agenda," Beck wrote. "Facebook truly is the only communal experience we now have in some ways. We need to see what 'the other side' is talking about."

Is Facebook really the "only communal experience" people have?

Regardless, Beck said that he hoped Facebook supports all points of view, and not because pressure or boycott threats, but to be true to its business plan.

"I will stand for any man's right to be truly free and run his business the way he sees fit," Beck wrote. "Enough of beating people in submission (sic)." That is not who we are." Allowing for all ideas "is bravery and real freedom."

The post has garnered more than 1,200 comments.

After Gizmodo reported May 9 that Facebook "routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers," Facebook released its 28-page Trending Review Guidelines, revealing careful processes to ensure fairness but also how involved humans are in a process that many believed to be purely algorithm-driven.

In the Wall Street Journal, columnist Christopher Mims put the issue in perspective, noting that that attention was being paid to the "blink-and-you'll-miss-it box" in the upper right-hand corner of the Facebook home page. But no one was talking about the News Feed—the main source of content, running down the center of the site.

"Of the 1,500 or so posts pumped out by the average Facebook user's network of friends every day, that user only looks at about 300," Mims wrote. "The trick is which ones."

But does even that matter?

A March report in the Internet Policy Review, by six authors from the University of Amsterdam, looked at the literature about "filter bubbles" and concluded that there's little need to worry about story biases influencing popular thinking.

"We synthesize empirical research on the extent and effects of self-selected personalization, where people actively choose which content they receive, and pre-selected personalization, where algorithms personalize content for users without any deliberate user choice," wrote the authors. "We conclude that at present there is little empirical evidence that warrants any worries about filter bubbles."

Regardless of Facebook's impact, some people feel duped, or misrepresented, and a conversation will take place.

On May 12, Zuckerberg posted to Facebook his intention to meet with leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum.

"I want to have a direct conversation about what Facebook stands for," wrote Zuckerberg, "and how we can be sure our platform stays as open as possible."


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