Facebook’s tinkering with its news feed has cost Mother Jones up to $600,000 a year in lost revenue, its editor-in-chief has alleged, calling the social network a “garbage company” and a “toxic cesspool” damaging the US.
Clara Jeffery said she was “enraged” after reading a Wall Street Journal story about how Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has drifted away from his apolitical stance and became a seriously involved player in the last four years.
1/ I am enraged. Excellent reporting from WSJ’s @dseetharaman and @EmilyGlazer finds that Facebook engineers—with sign-off from Zuckerberg himself—retooled their algorithm to throttle traffic to high-value progressive news orgs, @MotherJones IN PARTICULAR https://t.co/BeIYghE1xtpic.twitter.com/emQcZ832Iw
8/ Facebook a) pumps disinfo over real news b) works in concert with some of the absolute worst actors on the Right c) didn’t see the horrific results of livestreaming massacres coming. It is a toxic cesspool and directly implicated in everything tearing our country apart.
Among other things, the newspaper described how in 2017 Facebook changed its news feed algorithm “to minimize the presence of political news.”
“Policy executives were concerned about the outsize impact of the changes on the right, including the Daily Wire, people familiar with the matter said. Engineers redesigned their intended changes so that left-leaning sites like Mother Jones were affected more than previously planned,” WSJ reported, adding that Zuckerberg had personally signed off on the alterations.
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Mother Jones has experienced a significant drop in traffic coming from Facebook, Jeffery said, adding that it costs her publication some $400,000 to $600,000 annually. She also accused the social network of lying to the MJ social media team about the changes in the algorithm.
6/ What did these changes in algorithm mean to @MotherJones? Someting like $400,000 to $600,000 a year. That’s big for a news org our size. This year, we’ve done everything we can to not lay people off. But it’s meant pay cuts for our higher paid employees, loss of 401K match.
12/ AND they directly lied to our social media team. Facebook is a garbage company. You work there, you’re complicit in the Pandora’s Box of shit they’ve let loose on the world. https://t.co/SyVmljJ2lk
Similar criticism came from Tara McGowan, a co-founder of nonprofit Acronym. Among other things, Acronym operates a network of websites called Courier Newsroom, which ostensibly produces local news, but was designed as a political vehicle to swing votes for Democrats – ostensibly in response to Republicans using the same tactics.
Zuckerberg, the WSJ report said, argued that Courier Newsroom was not a news organization. The discussion led to Facebook adopting a policy that ousted partisan-backed sites from its news feed and of otherwise restricting their reach on the platform. The policy favors conservative sites “known for spreading disinformation,” McGowan angrily tweeted.
To be very clear, this “policy” does not impact right-wing media outlets including The Daily Caller, The Daily Wire, Breitbart, Washington Free Beacon + dozens of others known for spreading disinformation. According to Facebook, these are all still “verified” news publishers 🤬
Both Jeffery and McGowan also rebuked Zuckerberg for talking to conservative media figures like co-founder of the Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro. According to the WSJ, the influential commenter got invited to a dinner with the Facebook CEO last year. “While the two aren’t friends, they sometimes discuss broader political and philosophical themes, the people added, many of which they disagree on,” the WSJ report said.
“WTF, seriously? Guess who’s not invited to dinner? Hey Mark, I only live a few blocks from you,” Jeffery responded.
5/ Zuckerberg had Ben Shapiro over to dinner to court him? WTF, seriously? Guess who’s not invited to dinner? Hey Mark, I only live a few blocks from you. https://t.co/BeIYghE1xtpic.twitter.com/Hvc7CdnyZW
The WSJ report and the backlash from the Left came as the power that big tech companies have over what information reaches the public in the US is subjected to increased scrutiny. Earlier this week Facebook restricted the spread of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden and allegations that he had peddled influence as the son of then-Vice President Joe Biden. Twitter went even further and banned sharing links to the story on its service, a controversial decision that since had been reversed.
The acts of censorship were cheered-on by many public figures on the Left, which sees the story as a smear of the Democrat candidate in the presidential election. Many on the Right called it a brazen attack on freedom of speech and the latest proof that Silicon Valley giants play favorites in politics.
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