Latest in Gear

Image credit:

Facebook axed political discussion feature over fear of bias allegations

'Common Ground' would have encouraged peaceful conversations.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
December 23, 2018
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

Chesnot/Getty Images

Facebook's wariness of appearing biased against conservatives may have ironically cost it an attempt to remove that bias. Wall Street Journal sources say the social network dropped "Common Ground," an initiative that encouraged more peaceful interaction between people from across the political spectrum, over fears conservatives would accuse the company of bias. Facebook had conducted over a year's worth of discussion and study but cancelled development in late summer after global policy chief Joel Kaplan (shown at left) raised objections.

The effort reportedly combined multiple features. It would have altered News Feed rankings to boost posts that were commented, liked or shared by people across different political ideologies. It would also have also downplayed comments that led to vitriolic discussions. According to the insiders, Kaplan raised concerns when Facebook research revealed that conservative users tended to be more polarized than their left-leaning counterparts. In trying to mitigate that polarization, Kaplan argued, Facebook would have disproportionately hurt conservative voices.

Kaplan has apparently played an important role in trying to fend off bias accusations, including support for an "internal whitelist" that protected controversial posts from major personalities and publications. A spokeswoman told the WSJ that Facebook deemed it "essential" for the company to understand a diversity of viewpoints if it wanted to create features that "serve everyone."

However, there are concerns that Kaplan himself has been biased. He attended Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearing, for instance. There are also worries this walking-on-eggshells approach may have sustained some partisanship instead of bringing people together. In trying to avoid scorn from politicians and other outspoken figures, it may have avoided meaningful attempts to raise the level of debate.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

The redesigned Tesla Model S interior swaps in a steering yoke

The redesigned Tesla Model S interior swaps in a steering yoke

View
NASA's asteroid-sampling OSIRIS-REx probe will head back to Earth in May

NASA's asteroid-sampling OSIRIS-REx probe will head back to Earth in May

View
Facebook predicts ‘uncertainty' in 2021, blames upcoming iOS 14 update

Facebook predicts ‘uncertainty' in 2021, blames upcoming iOS 14 update

View
Apple reports $111 billion in quarterly revenue, shattering previous record

Apple reports $111 billion in quarterly revenue, shattering previous record

View
iOS 14.4 rolls out with Bluetooth audio monitoring

iOS 14.4 rolls out with Bluetooth audio monitoring

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr