Facebook headquarters in California. (via Flickr)

Conservatives are not happy with Facebook after allegations have emerged that the tech giant routinely suppressed conservative news sources from appearing in the “trending” section of the site. Former employees, known as “news curators,” told Gizmodo that they were instructed to add stories to the section — which is supposed to be curated based on an algorithm that determines what is “trending.” The employees, who remained anonymous, also revealed that they would actively suppress right-wing news stories.

Gizmodo reports:

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.

“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” said the former curator. This individual asked to remain anonymous, citing fear of retribution from the company. The former curator is politically conservative, one of a very small handful of curators with such views on the trending team. “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 former curator was so troubled by the omissions that they kept a running log of them at the time; this individual provided the notes to Gizmodo. 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.

Facebook has denied the allegations.

In a statement given to ABC News, the company said: “There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality. These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives.”

Although the former employees told Gizmodo that news items about Facebook were practically prohibited from being included on the “trending” list, “Facebook trending” is currently one of the top articles under the “politics” section of the sidebar.

“Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation,” Gizmodo wrote. That’s “in stark contrast to the company’s claims” that “trending news” is determined by an algorithm that examines “a number of factors including engagement, timeliness, Pages you’ve liked and your location.”

–Posted by Emma Niles

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