Have you ever clicked on one of those trending topics that appear over to the right of your Facebook news feed? As you go about your mindless scrolling, do some of these headlines capture your attention and draw you in to read news articles? If you are like many social media users today, you have likely clicked on your fair share of these trends. Have you ever though that the trends might actually be put there with an ulterior motive in mind?
Even if you click on these trending topics that you see, how much do you really know about what constitutes a trend? Is there a person behind the scenes collecting data and sharing what seems to be the most important news? Is it some automated program that latches onto whatever most people are sharing and puts it up in the forefront? Apparently, members of the US Senate are starting to ask questions about how it works, and in a recent inquiry from the Commerce Committee led by John Thune, that question needs some answering.
According to Thune and other on the committee, it seems that there is a clear bias that exists on Facebook. Coming as no surprise to most of the world, they claim is that this bias favors liberal news over more conservative views. At times, this could perhaps seem like it is true, especially when you consider some of the news that slips under the radar and those seemingly less important stories that make it to the forefront. Despite any attempt to find a bias though, Facebook explains that the “trending topics” are mostly the result of a set algorithm and only partly the job of a news curator. While one could suggest that the curator is exercising some bias, it would be hard to accuse an algorithm of such behavior. Still, responsibility is split between the two, so determining a clear bias would be difficult.
Of course, the reality that this question reveals goes much deeper than whether or not Facebook is actually biased. Instead, it shows just what depths society has sunk to that so many people rely on Facebook as their primary source of news. Sure, social media can be a great way to discover new and interesting stories, and for those who know how to filter through fact and fiction, it has its place. But, if Facebook is your “go-to news source,” then you need to think beyond whether that source is biased. Instead, you need to start questioning whether you even know what news is important to you and what isn’t. Society has sunk to the point where parody stories from entities like The Onion are often shared as if they were reality. Knowing this, it makes sense that some completely dismiss Facebook as a news source.