Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally,
also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject”
selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t
popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending
The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they
were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending
In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional
newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional
imperatives of the corporation.
As we reported last week, curators have access to a ranked list of
trending topics surfaced by Facebook’s algorithm, which prioritizes the
stories that should be shown to Facebook users in the trending section.
The curators write headlines and summaries of each topic, and include
links to news sites. The section, which launched in 2014, constitutes
some of the most powerful real estate on the internet and helps dictate
what news Facebook’s users—167 million in the US alone—are reading at
any given moment.
Among the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: former IRS
official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately
scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular
conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former
Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor
Steven Crowder. “I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative
news,” the former curator said.