Facebook and Politics: Does it Influence Users

Facebook and Politics: Does it Influence Users

By MICHELLE HART/CMO & CSO/ web301

How many of us have gone into Facebook and occasionally glanced at the top Trending topics? We don't really mean to, yet that little ticker has become our social news lifesaver when needing some type of global topic to discuss by the water cooler or at the family dinner table to show to our family, friends and peers that we indeed keep track of what is happening in the world around us. But are we getting the full picture?

Facebook News May Only Tell Certain Parts of the Story

In the headquarters of Facebook are 12 journalists who curate the news that we see in the Trending News ticker. They peruse current trending mentions that are gathered by their mysterious algorithm, select the stories that have the most relevance, connect them with current news events and then send out these tempting headlines to the billions of users that access Facebook every day.

Yet, it was recently discovered through former Facebook team members that users aren't getting the full news scope. On more than one occasion, former team members claimed that Facebook would blacklist certain stories so they would not be seen on the social media platform, promoted stories that they felt should be trending with users, and regularly tampered with headlines so that they were no longer impartial or unbiased.

While it is understandable that the amount of news that happens around the world is phenomenal, and that print, television, radio and online news outlets must decide which stories will be the most relevant to users, the worrisome part of the Trending News section offered by Facebook is that the social media platform could influence users in ways people never imagined for the company's benefit.

The Much-Talked About Facebook Experiment

If it seems unreal that this company would influence its users in such a way, then think about the psychological experiment Facebook took part in back in 2010. Over 700,000 users had their news feeds manipulated so that they would either see a very low amount of positive posts or a very low amount of negative posts. This research experiment received a lot of flak because it was found that Facebook posts did indeed have an emotional effect on people using the social media platform.

Now imagine if Facebook took this experiment a step further to show only select news stories about certain politicians, movements or bigger political topics as it took an unbiased approach. The social media company could theoretically influence people's emotions, opinions and possible actions to the company's agenda. While it may seem far-fetched, we have already seen the shadings of such influence over the news with the 2010 single-day election message Facebook placed in their feeds that sent 340,000 more people to vote in the US Congressional elections as well as possibly playing a larger part in the Black Lives Matter movement even when the news story wasn't presently trending.

While Facebook denies such claims, it still stands to reason that if the company decides to take a greater role in presenting news to their billions of users, the social media platform must also take a stance in presenting unbiased and impartial topics in its Trending News column. It must also be discussed on whether Facebook should be overseen by regulations to prevent news bias from reaching its users.

For more information on Facebook but not necessarily Politics, contact Michelle Hart at 541-668-5808 or michelle@web301.com

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