WASHINGTON (NRB) – Revelations that Facebook regularly suppresses conservative news websites from its trending section is just the latest example of a pattern of censorship by the social media behemoth, according Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters.
“It’s time for Facebook to face the facts,” Johnson said in response to a May 9 report that former Facebook staff said the company regularly suppresses conservative news sources. “Social media users expect a level playing field and are tired of Facebook’s one-sided neutrality. For some time, Facebook has shut down conservative pages or censored their comments. Now Facebook is caught burying conservative news stories and puffing liberal ones. Facebook must change if they want our trust and our participation on their platform.”
Gizmodo, a technology blog, quoted anonymously several former Facebook employees — “news curators” — that the social media company manipulated the use of its algorithm. Employees both “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers,” according to one its former journalists, and were instructed to artificially “inject” stories that were favored by Facebook management, known for its liberal positions on cultural issues.
Facebook responded to the Gizmodo report — and other news accounts about the report — by denying the claims. Insisting it has “strict guidelines” for the trending topics staff and does not allow discrimination of sources based on ideological origin, the social media giant noted: “Reviewers are required to accept topics that reflect real world events, and are instructed to disregard junk or duplicate topics, hoaxes, or subjects with insufficient sources.”
Facebook’s assurances did not satisfy Johnson.
“Unfortunately, Facebook’s explanation does not adequately reassure us of its neutrality following this whistle blower report and previously documented incidents of censorship,” Johnson said. “Facebook should take this opportunity to declare its commitment to free speech for all on its platform and to implement a transparent policy holding its employees accountable for not discriminating, consciously or subconsciously, against viewpoints they may not value or agree with — including those they may wish to be ‘hoaxes’ or have ‘insufficient sources.’”
Since 2011, NRB has documented cases of internet-based censorship of Christian views and other free speech violations through its John Milton Project for Free Speech. Starting with the 2010 example of Apple removing evangelical leader Chuck Colson’s Manhattan Declaration from its iTunes App Store, the Project has published a chart with instances of censorship by private corporations, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. For more on the John Milton Project, visit nrb.org/jmp.
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a nonpartisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers. Our mission is to advance biblical truth; to promote media excellence; and to defend free speech. In addition to promoting standards of excellence, integrity, and accountability, NRB provides networking, educational, ministry, and fellowship opportunities for its members. Learn more at www.nrb.org.