Facebook recently announced that white supremacist propaganda site Breitbart would be considered a “high quality” news source on its platform, leading to complaints that Facebook was legitmising hate. But it’s fine, according to one Facebook executive who gave an interview at the Code Media conference in Los Angeles on Monday, because Facebook also includes the “far left” in its News tab.
Facebook’s VP of global marketing solutions, Carolyn Everson, took questions at the conference yesterday and attendees were not shy about asking her about the many fuck-ups Facebook has participated in since the 2016 election. One guy from the audience, who identified himself as a former employee at MySpace, asked about why Breitbart was involved in Facebook’s new News product.
“Is Facebook saying that Breitbart is a trusted news source or is it acknowledging that it’s a propaganda machine?” the unnamed man asked.
“So we are not paying Breitbart. We are paying for a lot of the other news sources that are in the trusted news. Breitbart has to agree to our terms and conditions, and if they violate them they’ll be kicked out,” Everson said.
“We also have content in from the far left, to try to balance the far left and the far right,” Everson continued. “Again, we did not feel that we should be in a position to make a judgment call to remove the far right and leave the far left in.”
What’s the “far left” news outlet that’s currently on Facebook News? Your guess is as good as ours since Facebook hasn’t responded to our request for an example. Other participants in Facebook News include the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and BuzzFeed, none of which could be described as “far left.” Unless, of course, USA Today was recently purchased by Jacobin and we missed the announcement.
“But you’re calling it news, rather than opinion,” the audience member responded to Everson. “It’s one thing if you say ‘this is opinion’ and ‘go shop it and check it and what have-you’ but you’re calling it news, which it avowedly is not.”
“We’re treating it as a news source,” Everson said. “The term… I wouldn’t call it trusted news, because it’s all going to be dependent on how they follow our policies. And if they don’t they’re going to be kicked out.”
Video from the discussion is available on YouTube.
Gizmodo will update this story if Facebook gets back to us with a “far left” news organisation that is included in its new News tab.