Facebook wants to get on the good side of conservatives.
As part of the company’s efforts to reconcile with the right, “political bias” course will be offered to Facebook employees, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg announced during an address at conservative think thank American Enterprise Institute (AEI). The topic joins existing management programs that address race, gender, age, and national biases.
“As we think about helping people understand different points of view and being open to different points of view, we’re dealing with political bias as well going forward,” Sandberg said in a conversation with AEI president Arthur Brooks.
The move comes six weeks after the company faced severe backlash following a report in Gizmodo wherein a former employee for the sites’s trending news topics said Facebook “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers.”
Facebook previously admitted that there may have been a handful of rogue employees who tampered with the content, but the company said, as a whole, it did not favor any political side. After an internal investigation, the company’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, wrote to Senator John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and a Republican, who was probing the allegations of bias, saying:
Our investigation has revealed no evidence of systematic political bias in the selection or prominence of stories included in the Trending Topics feature. Our data analysis indicated that conservative and liberal topics are approved as trending topics at virtually identical rates. We were also unable to substantiate any of the specific allegations of politically-motivated suppression of particular subjects or sources.
Still, in late May, the Menlo Park giant revamped how its trending topics feature operates. At AEI, Sandberg said an editorial team has to be involved with the product because otherwise junk topics like #lunch and #dinner will start trending at certain times daily. Some of the changes included additional controls and oversight around the team that reviews the content, updated guidelines training for the employees, and no reliance on a list of top news outlets when assessing trending topics.
The company has not been able to silence all critics. At the company’s shareholders meeting earlier this week, Justin Danhof of the National Center for Public Policy Research questioned CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the company’s anti-conservative bias—Zuckerberg deflected the question to another executive who listed the reforms implemented after the company had investigated the bias allegations. In a press release, Danhof called Facebook out for not admitting to the problem: ”Why is Facebook making the change if there is nothing wrong?”