Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg engaged in public discussions earlier today as part of a planned and live-streamed meeting with the European Parliament, designed to address issues of data privacy in the wake of the recent Cambridge Analytica revelations. The process, while similar to the recent congressional hearings in the United States, differed in some respects as it involved a more one-way comments and questions section from all MEPs (Members of the European Parliament), before Zuckerberg provided a lengthy response designed to collectively answer as many of the questions posed as possible.
One of those MEPs who was in attendance and aiming questions at Zuckerberg was the UK’s Nigel Farage who took a slightly different approach to other MEPs by suggesting Facebook’s more recent (and reactionary) approach to fighting ‘fake news’ has resulted in a swing too far in the opposite direction. Essentially, Farage accused Facebook of not adopting the politically neutral platform it claims to hold, and actively discriminating against those who have right-of-center opinions. Farage drew on himself, as well as President Donald Trump as examples of having been affected by this, suggesting views and impressions of right-of-center posts are down roughly 25-percent this year. Compared to previously where Farage suggested high-profile events such as Donald Trump winning the US election, Vote Leave’s success in the Brexit debate, as well as the Italian elections would not have been possible had it not been for Facebook.
As the process did not involve Zuckerberg directly addressing issues on a per-question basis, the Facebook CEO did not provide a direct answer to this specific question asked. However, as part of the all-inclusive answer segment Zuckerberg did touch on ‘political bias’ in general and provided some insight relating to these accusations. With Zuckerberg confirming that more recently Facebook has took on an approach which favors content related to ‘friends, family and community’ over ‘public’ content, such as news. A move Zuckerberg states will inevitably affect any and all people who use the platform as more of a political engagement tool. Zuckerberg added this decision was made based on feedback from Facebook users as well as research by the company that suggests friends and family content correlates positively with well-being in general, unlike news-focused content. Also adding political orientation will never impact on Facebook’s decision to permit content, or how that content is ranked.