NYT: Facebook Manipulated ‘Secret’ Algorithm to Suppress ‘Misinformation’
Facebook used its power to modify user news feeds to suppress what it called “election misinformation.” This new policy used a “secret internal ranking” after the Nov. 3 election to alter users’ feeds on the platform.
The company altered its users’ newsfeeds to prioritize “mainstream publishers” like CNN, The New York Times and NPR, according to The Times.
But Facebook did not only prioritize posts from “mainstream publishers.” “[P]osts from highly engaged hyperpartisan pages, such as Breitbart and Occupy Democrats, became less visible, the employees said,” according to The Times.
This change to the algorithm “involved emphasizing the importance of what Facebook calls ‘news ecosystem quality’ scores, or N.E.Q., a secret internal ranking it assigns to news publishers based on signals about the quality of their journalism,” according to The Times, CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed to give this algorithm more weight after the Nov. 3 election.
Reportedly, Facebook wanted “to make sure authoritative news appeared more prominently, said three people with knowledge of the decision, who were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.
Facebook messed with its algorithm in 2016 as well. Gizmodo reported that year that “Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section.”
This alteration may be here to stay. “Some employees argued the change should become permanent, even if it was unclear how that might affect the amount of time people spent on Facebook,” said The Times. Employees had asked if the “nicer news feed” could stay after the election in a meeting. Kevin Roose, a tech writer for The Times, contributed to the article.
Facebook has maintained its stronghold over election content throughout the election. The platform instituted a political ad ban in October, which it still has not lifted. Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity, Guy Rosen, bragged about the fact that Facebook removed 180 million election posts in a Nov. 19 call with reporters. During this election cycle, Facebook constantly added new rules for election posts, and censored hashtags like #sharpiegate and #stopthesteal.
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