Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg meets with conservatives amid bias allegations
CEO acknowledges site has 'a problem' reaching conservatives
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg assured conservatives Wednesday that his site doesn't "suppress political content" but acknowledged it has "a problem" reaching them.
"We've built Facebook to be a platform for all ideas," he said in a post following the meeting at Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters which came about after a report accused the company of harboring a bias against conservative views. "Our community's success depends on everyone feeling comfortable sharing anything they want. It doesn't make sense for our mission or our business to suppress political content or prevent anyone from seeing what matters most to them."
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S.E. Cupp, a columnist with the New York Daily News who attended the meeting, said Facebook executives "were very clear to acknowledge that there is a problem and the problem is a serious one."
Cupp said Zuckerberg, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, vice-president Joel Kaplan and board member Peter Thiel mostly listened to the 17 conservatives who attended.
While the Facebook executives did not comment further on an internal investigation into allegations of political manipulation, they explained how difficult it would be for Facebook employees to inject bias into what stories make it into the "trending topics" section of the site or on individual users' news feeds, Cupp said.
Conservatives 'don't trust' Facebook
Rob Bluey, editor in chief of the website The Daily Signal, made similar comments to Fox News' Greta Van Susteren shortly after the meeting ended.
"They certainly acknowledged that there was a problem with getting the message out to conservatives," he said.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone confirmed that was the tenor of the meeting.
In his Facebook post afterward, Zuckerberg did not directly respond to allegations that Facebook employees suppressed conservative stories on its "trending topics" feature. But he said, "I know many conservatives don't trust that our platform surfaces content without a political bias."
"I wanted to hear their concerns personally and have an open conversation about how we can build trust. I want to do everything I can to make sure our teams uphold the integrity of our products," he wrote.
Among others in attendance, according to Facebook, was radio host Glenn Beck, American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, Tea Party Patriots CEO Jenny Beth Martin and Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center.
Zuckerberg invited the group after the tech blog Gizmodo claimed that Facebook downplays conservative news subjects on its trending feature. Facebook denied the report, which relied upon a single anonymous individual with self-described conservative leanings. The company said it is investigating the matter.
Cupp said the viewpoints of the conservatives and the Facebook executives were aligned on issues such as data security, privacy, deregulation and free markets.
"We have a lot more in common than public perception would have you believe," she said.
Facebook's trending topics are most visible on the desktop version of the social network, although it is possible to access them on mobile too.
On browsers, the topics appear on the top right corner, separate from the news feed containing updates from your friends and family. On mobile devices, users can tap on the search bar to see the top trends, but they can't see separate categories.
Topics that appear as trending can have a self-fulfilling effect, as more Facebook readers see and share the items, and other news organizations decide to write their own stories