'Trending Topics' row: Zuckerberg to meet conservative leaders

Washington: Accused of an editorial bias against conservative news organisations in its popular "Trending Topics”, the social media giant Facebook has invited conservative leaders, including outspoken media personality Glenn Beck, to meet CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week. According to Tech Insider, the meeting is scheduled to take place at Facebook's Silicon Valley headquarters. “They [Facebook] have had the same problem that many in media and Silicon Valley face: Suppression of conservative voices and ideas,” Beck posted on his Facebook page. “It would be interesting to look him [Zuckerberg] in the eye as he explains and a win for all voices if we can come to a place of real trust with this powerful tool," Beck added in the post. A report in technology website Gizmodo last week accused Facebook of an editorial bias against conservative news organisations which led to a call for a congressional inquiry from senator John Thune (Rep) from South Dakota and the chair of US Senate commerce committee which has jurisdiction over media issues. The panel also sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking for answers related to the "Trending Topics" row. Defending "Trending Topics", Justin Osofsky, Facebook vice president for global operations, posted last week: "We take these reports very seriously and will continue to investigate the allegations. We have found no evidence to date that 'Trending Topics' was successfully manipulated but will continue the review of all our practices”. "The guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives. About 40 percent of the topics in the queue get rejected by the reviewers because they reflect what is considered 'noise' -- a random word or name that lots of people are using in lots of different ways," Osofsky said, adding that this tool is not used to suppress or remove articles or topics from a particular perspective. "Trending Topics" was launched in 2014 to surface major conversations happening on Facebook. It appears on right-hand side on desktop as well as when you tap on the search box in the mobile app and primarily for people using Facebook in English (there are limited tests being run in Spanish and Portuguese). "At its core, 'Trending Topics' is designed to help people discover major events and meaningful conversations," Osofsky posted. According to him, "Trending Topics" team is governed by a set of guidelines meant to ensure a high-quality product, consistent with Facebook's deep commitment to being a platform for people of all viewpoints. "The guidelines demonstrate that we have a series of checks and balances in place to help surface the most important popular stories, regardless of where they fall on the ideological spectrum. Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to discriminate against sources of any political origin, period," Osofsky stressed.