Facebook courts GOP as allegations fly over its ‘suppression’ of conservative news

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. © Robert Galbraith
Still stinging from allegations that Facebook “suppressed” right-leaning topics in its trending news feed, its tech-oriented leader is courting an unusual crowd for a face-to-face meeting – high-profile conservatives.

The meeting to take place on Wednesday will feature Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a senior advisor to Donald Trump named Barry Bennett, Fox News co-host and former White House press secretary Dana Perino, and media personality Glenn Beck, as well as others.

The move comes in the wake of a Gizmodo report claiming that Facebook employees in charge of the network’s “trending” news section were biased against conservatives. Former workers told the outlet that Facebook routinely “suppresses” news stories of interest to conservative readers in its “trending” news section, even when the stories are trending organically with Facebook readers themselves.

Facebook denied the allegations following the report, claiming there was “no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true.”

Gizmodo also stated that there was “no evidence” that the bias was mandated or even known about by Facebook’s management. However, the report did note that those in charge of the trending news section tend to be Ivy League-educated individuals with liberal worldviews.

As conservatives lambasted Facebook over the report, with some threatening to leave the social network altogether, Zuckerberg himself issued a statement in an attempt at damage control.

“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,” Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.

“In the coming weeks, I’ll also be inviting leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum to talk with me about this and share their points of view. I want to have a direct conversation about what Facebook stands for and how we can be sure our platform stays as open as possible,” he added.

Even Zuckerberg’s proposed meeting came under fire from conservative outlets like Breitbart, which alleged that all those being invited to the meeting were anti-Trump. “The move to invite from this school of 'conservatives' flies in the face of Zuckerberg’s claim of creating a diverse group for the discussion,” the website argued in a post.

However, Bennett’s decision to attend the meeting seems to have minimized that criticism.

Facebook’s seemingly rocky relationship with Trump had come to light earlier, when one employee asked Zuckerberg whether the company had a responsibility “to help prevent President Trump in 2017.” Zuckerberg himself made comments critical of Trump’s position on immigration In April. Facebook’s head supports a more open immigration policy, while Trump has called for the construction of a wall between the US and Mexico.

“I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others, for blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, reducing trade and, in some cases around the world, even cutting access to the internet,” he said at an April conference, according to The Hill.

“It takes courage to choose hope over fear,” he added.