You’ve probably already heard about the controversy at Facebook over alleged censorship of conservative news on the trending bar. While Facebook has denied these bombshell allegations that were leaked by former “news curators” (those are the people that manage the trending section), rumors of a hidden political agenda has sparked the world’s interest into what is selected to appear as trending.
Courtesy of @foodandwine
Trending has slowly weaved its way into our lexicon, and into our way of life as journalists. The right side of our news feed has become the go-to for figuring out what’s happening in the world. The trending bar is always open during our editorial meetings, and inevitably, many of those topics end up dictating the content that we choose to write about.
That’s why even mere suspicion of censorship knocked the wind out of us — we’ve always been under the impression that trending was an unbiased cyberbot that relayed information about popular topics. Even if Facebook isn’t suppressing conservative news, it’s pretty unsettling that trending can be easily manipulated. Today, we also realized that our trending bars differ substantially, and that they’re somewhat tailored to our interests. There is also a customization aspect, as you can eliminate topics you don’t like and trending will better identify what’s you’re more likely to read.
This morning, right before noon, our staff at Bold decided to screenshot our trending bars. We noticed immediately that news topics were hilariously pandering to each of our respective demographics. For instance, take a look at my trending bar (31-year-old male who loves politics) versus one of our editor’s trending bar (31-year-old female who loves celebrities). There’s some overlap, but there’s conspicuously more news that would be much more appealing to women.
While customizing your news feed probably warms your heart, studies show that our media habits are fueling political polarization. The more news we read that panders to our political beliefs, the more it reinforces our ideas. A Pew Research study points out “there is little overlap in the news sources they turn to and trust. And whether discussing politics online or with friends, they are more likely than others to interact with like-minded individuals.”
Even our news sources have become “safe-spaces” that sanitize content that doesn’t jive with our world view. The custom nature of trending on Facebook (and other major social media websites like Twitter) means that we’re only growing more divided politically.
David is the Editor of Bold. He's especially passionate about millennial economic empowerment. A former local news reporter, David is originally from the Little Havana area in Miami, and later became a pioneer resident of the Disney-inspired town of Celebration, Florida. David holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.