Facebook Employees Reportedly Clashed Over Social Media Giant’s Special Treatment of Breitbart
Facebook is currently experiencing a public crisis amid a surge of revelations about how the social media network failed to curb misinformation, violent extremism, and other kinds of harmful content on their platform. Many of these revelations stem from the “Facebook Papers” provided by whistleblower Frances Haugen, and one new report is describing Facebook’s internal disputes over the site’s handling of the conservative news outlet: Breitbart.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a Facebook employee proposed that the company should remove Breitbart from their News Tab last year. The proposal came shortly after the killing of George Floyd sparked new calls for racial justice, and the employee argued that Breitbart and other partisan outlets were pushing inflammatory content with their negative coverage on the country’s civil unrest.
The News Tab is Facebook’s tool for aggregating and promoting news content from outlets chosen by the company. The proposal to strike Breitbart from the News Tab was reportedly supported by many Facebook employees, but the push was resisted by a company researcher who warned of the political blowback from supporters of former President Donald Trump.
“At best, it would be a very difficult policy discussion,” said the researcher. In the end, the company did leave Breitbart in the News Tab.
The WSJ’s review of internal Facebook documents went on to further establish that push and pull over the regulation of inflammatory right-wing content. Many employees, on internal message boards, have complained about Facebook often failing to enforce its own rules, granting “special exceptions” to outlets like Breitbart, and helping them sell ads even though Facebook’s internal data shows Breitbart to be the least trusted source in the News Tab.
Facebook employees, as seen in a large quantity of internal message-board conversations, have agitated consistently for the company to act against far-right sites,” said the report. “In many cases, they have framed their arguments around Facebook’s enforcement of its own rules, alleging that Facebook is giving the right-wing publishers a pass to avoid PR blowback. As one employee put it in an internal communication: ‘We’re scared of political backlash if we enforce our policies without exemptions.’
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