Here's A Thought: Stop Getting Your News From Facebook

Gizmodo threw Facebook under the bus, reporting that the team that runs the “Trending” topics section routinely removes certain right-wing political sites from the section, even when data showed they were trending. It doesn't take much to piss off right-wingers, so a bunch of them in the Senate banged out a letter to Facebook saying WTF?

No, this was not a letter to a news organization (which the government has historically tried to regulate into being “unbiased," or at least limiting its regional influence); it was to a social media platform that, let's face it, has more influence over Americans than any media company in history.

Depending on whether major news organizations run stories they do or don’t like, many argue that these media companies — especially newspapers owned by families or billionaires — are biased toward the left or the right, reflecting the views of the owners.

Thanks to cable TV, we have "news" organizations that are biased by design. And the shift of readers to digital has more "news" organizations compromising their "editorial integrity" every day with native advertising. Argue all you want about how consumers like how native "flows" within regular editorial — it is selling out by any other name.

Throughout the 20th century, when most families read newspapers for their news, there were arguments back and forth about how if the news wasn't slanted one way or another, just the choice of stories gave the press enormous power to "set the agenda" of what was important — and how local, national and international news should be considered.

Behind all of it, just as at Facebook, were and are human beings (algorithms are programmed by humans, and so contain all kinds of biases as well). Watch the same story on three or four of the major network evening news programs and you will see a profound difference in everything from voice inflection to choice of words to facial expressions that transmit the personal feelings of the reporter in spite of efforts by the parent organization to be "fair and balanced." If you read the same story in different newspapers (or news sites) from around the world, you will often wonder if they are talking about the same event.

All of this is to put to rest the idea that news, whether delivered by the "press" or social media, is in any way unbiased.  And as we have seen to date, no amount of government pressure or direct intervention will resolve this. It is not an organizational issue (although it may have been at Facebook), it is a human issue. If the feds tolerate Fox news, they have no moral high ground on which to stand and complain about the choices Facebook is making.

Unless, of course, they decide in the long run that Facebook has become too powerful, too influential (much like newspapers and the Big Three Networks in the last century) and they decide to “regulate” it — which, by Facebook's consumer-generated-content DNA, will be totally impossible.

Finally, it is a singularly sad commentary on our society as a whole that Facebook has become a primary source of news, thanks very much to news organization co-opting themselves by begging for their traffic.  If Facebook leans left or right should not even be a thing. Especially with a world of relatively credible news just a click or two away.

2 comments about "Here's A Thought: Stop Getting Your News From Facebook".
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  1. Kim Stuart from, May 13, 2016 at 12:03 p.m.

    Yep, you're so right on this one it's not even funny.  If you rely on FB or Twitter to get your news, you'll only get what you get and that's that.  

    This link goes to the alleged FB internal guidance docs for trending topics...  no idea if they are real or not.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 11, 2016 at noon

    Thank you.

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