With the upcoming presidential election, Facebook is training employees to check their political biases. Google and other companies have been helping employees identify unconscious biases about race and other differences. After criticism that Facebook weeds out conservative stories on its "trending topics" feature, the company is including political bias in its training program.
In May, an article reported several contractors who were "curators" of these trending topics admitting they were told to "inject" topics management deemed of interest and to suppress stories about Facebook as a company in the feed. Facebook denied these charges:
My team is responsible for Trending Topics, and I want to address today's reports alleging that Facebook contractors manipulated Trending Topics to suppress stories of interest to conservatives. We take these reports extremely seriously and have found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true.
Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum. 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. Nor do they permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or one news outlet over another. These guidelines do not prohibit any news outlet from appearing in Trending Topics.
Including political bias in the company's "Managing Bias" training program is a clever approach to the issue, and Facebook has sought advice from leading political conservatives to help. COO Sheryl Sandberg explains the goal:
"It is a political time and we're proud of the role we play in elections, not just here but around the world. The vision of Facebook was to enable individuals to connect, but to connect not just to their friends and family, but also to the people who are representing them and who they want to represent them."
Sandberg also said that Donald Trump has more Facebook fans than Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders combined.
Facebook's Managing Bias training is available online.
- Have your own biases interfered with working relationships? Or have others' biases affected you? How did you handle the situation, and what was the result?
- What could training for political bias look like? How could this training help employees with their coworkers, in addition to helping the curators?