Mark Zuckerberg to Meet With 'Leading Conservatives' Over Censorship Allegations

Mark Zuckerberg / AP
May 13, 2016

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will meet with "leading conservatives and people across the political spectrum" in the upcoming weeks after a report unveiled that the social media platform censors conservative viewpoints from the site’s trending news section.

Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post Thursday night that the company’s investigation into the allegations didn’t turn up evidence that the account is true, but vowed to have a "direct" conversation with those on the right regarding the charges.

Earlier this week, Gizmodo reported that Facebook "blacklisted" stories focused on right-leaning issues from the site’s trending news, citing a source who formerly worked as a curator at the company.

"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," the curator said. "I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news."

The report sparked instant outrage from leaders on the right. Sen. John Thune (R, S.D.) demanded that Facebook explain Gizmodo’s allegations, writing in a letter to Zuckerberg that he explain how the company "investigates claims of politically motivated manipulation."

"Any attempt by a neutral and inclusive social media platform to censor or manipulate political discussion is an abuse of trust and inconsistent with the values of an open Internet," Thune said in a statement Tuesday.

Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus also called on Facebook to explain its "conservative censorship."

Official Facebook policy says that the site aggregates stories for its trending section based on "topics that have recently become popular."

On Thursday, Facebook detailed its methodology of how its employees decide on the topics that constitute trends. One constraint requires that the topic is verified by at least three media outlets out of the 1,000 websites Facebook deems reputable.

Zuckerberg emphasized in his letter the company’s goal of bringign together the global community regardless of political leanings.

"To serve our diverse community, we are committed to building a platform for all ideas," Zuckerberg wrote Thursday night. "Trending Topics is designed to surface the most newsworthy and popular conversations on Facebook. We have rigorous guidelines that do not permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or the suppression of political perspectives."

It is unclear who Zuckerberg will meet with in the next few weeks.