MENLO PARK (CBS SF): Facebook fired a senior engineer this week who collected evidence showing the social media company giving preferential treatment to right wing accounts, according to a report from Buzzfeed News.
The engineer, who Buzzfeed did not name, recently posted internal information on Workplace showing that “Facebook was giving preferential treatment to prominent conservative accounts to help them remove fact-checks from their content.” Facebook later deleted the post and on Wednesday, the company fired the poster.
The firing comes after Facebook employees confronted CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg over preferential treatment for right wing sites during an all-hands meeting last Friday. The employees pushed Zuckerberg on how “Breitbart News could remain a Facebook News partner after sharing a video that promoted unproven treatments and said masks were unnecessary to combat the novel coronavirus,” according to Buzzfeed.
Facebook deleted the video six hours after Breitbart posted it to its page, but it had already racked up 14 million views and other sites continued to share it.
“This was certainly one strike against them for misinformation, but they don’t have others in the last 90 days,” Zuckerberg reportedly said. “So by the policies that we have, which by the way I think are generally pretty reasonable on this, it doesn’t make sense to remove them.”
Facebook’s fact-checking rules stipulate that the site can limit the reach of pages that repeatedly share misinformation. But NBC News obtained evidence that Facebook relaxed its rules for Right Wing accounts such as “Breitbart, former Fox News personalities Diamond and Silk, the nonprofit media outlet PragerU and the pundit Charlie Kirk.”
Normally, Facebook’s fact-checking teams give “strikes” to accounts posting misinformation. Yet documents given to NBC show that some employees “with direct oversight from company leadership, deleted strikes during the review process that were issued to some conservative partners for posting misinformation over the last six months.”
Former employees, speaking anonymously, told NBC that they were concerned Facebook gave conservative outlets preferential treatment to avoid criticisms of anti-conservative bias.
“This supposed goal of this process is to prevent embarrassing false positives against respectable content partners, but the data shows that this is instead being used primarily to shield conservative fake news from the consequences,” one former employee told NBC News.
NBC reported that there were cases of preferential treatment for left-leaning pages passing on misleading information, such as Democratic super PAC Priorities USA.
It appears Facebook is addressing the criticisms as the site recently removed posts on the Team Trump page that spread misinformation about COVID-19. It also removed pages from a troll farm in Romania that posed as African-American support for Trump.