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The real Trending Topics scandal

February 12 · Issue #81 · View online
The Interface
When did our cultural reckoning over social media begin? In a comprehensive new account of that question in Wired, Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein suggest the answer is May 9, 2016: the day that Gizmodo published Former Facebook workers: we routinely suppressed conservative news. Thompson and Vogelstein write:
The piece suggested that Facebook’s Trending team worked like a Fox News fever dream, with a bunch of biased curators “injecting” liberal stories and “blacklisting” conservative ones. Within a few hours the piece popped onto half a dozen highly trafficked tech and politics websites, including Drudge Report and Breitbart News.
The post went viral, but the ensuing battle over Trending Topics did more than just dominate a few news cycles. In ways that are only fully visible now, it set the stage for the most tumultuous two years of Facebook’s existence—triggering a chain of events that would distract and confuse the company while larger disasters began to engulf it.
Wired’s story dominated discussion online today, and for good reason. If the basic arc of the story is familiar — particularly to readers of The Interface — it’s stuffed with new details about how external events have played out inside Facebook. (The best is an account of how Facebook set up a meeting of conservative blowhards in the wake of Gizmodo’s story in hopes that they would turn on each other and decide that Facebook should exert as little editorial control over the platform as possible; the blowhards proceeded to do just that.) 
And yet I’m struck how, in retrospect, the story that helped to trigger our current anxieties had the problem exactly wrong. The story offered a dire warning that Facebook exerted too much editorial control, in the one narrow section of the site where it actually employed human editors, when in fact the problem underlying our global misinformation crisis is that it exerted too little. Gizmodo’s story further declared that Facebook had become hostile to conservative viewpoints when in fact conservative viewpoints — and conservative hoaxes — were thriving across the platform.
Last month, NewsWhip published a list of the most-engaged publishers on Facebook. The no. 1 company posted more than 49,000 times in December alone, earning 21 million likes, comments, and shares. That publisher was Fox News. And the idea that Facebook suppresses the sharing of conservative news now seems very quaint indeed.

Inside Facebook's Hellish Two Years—and Mark Zuckerberg's Struggle to Fix it All
Facebook broke German privacy laws, court rules
He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He's Worried About An Information Apocalypse.
Liberals And Conservatives Are Being Fooled By Conspiracy Theories About The Russian Plane Crash
Google Autocomplete Suggestions Are Still Racist, Sexist, and Science-Denying
Trump Supporters Spread the Majority of Phony News on Social Media
Brazil's biggest newspaper pulls content from Facebook after algorithm change
YouTube exec addresses Logan Paul controversy and rising creator frustrations
Unilever Threatens to Reduce Ad Spending on Tech Platforms That Don’t Combat Divisive Content
YouTube exec addresses Logan Paul controversy and rising creator frustrations
Facebook lost around 2.8 million U.S. users under 25 last year. 2018 won’t be much better.
Facebook patents tech to determine social class
Snap VP of Sales Leaves the Company
Snapchat’s New Update Triggers Revolt by Millions of Teens
Facebook is pushing its data-tracking Onavo VPN within its main mobile app
Instagram is testing screenshot alerts for stories
You can now watch Snap Maps on the web
Facebook has a Big Tobacco Problem
And finally ...
Limiting Your Child's Fire Time: A Guide for Concerned Paleolithic Parents
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