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How the Invisible Hand of Facebook 'Can Influence Politics'

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A US Senate committee has launched an inquiry into how Facebook filters its news stories for its Trending Topics section. The legal action followed a report by technology blog Gizmodo alleging that Facebook suppressed conservative news and viewpoints and boosted liberal ones. Dr. Robert Epstein spoke to Radio Sputnik about these allegations.

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“There is something very real and disturbing going on there. It seems that there is no question that they do biased news stories against conservative forces and toward liberal forces. The problem with the Gizmodo story is that they do not have any actual proof that the top management at Facebook is responsible for the bias,” Dr. Robert Epstein, Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, told Sputnik in an interview.

Considering that Facebook is more popular with the younger generation who are more liberal, the analyst discussed whether it may be possible that the trending topics are an actual reflection of the fact that people read more liberal news than conservative.

“Another way to look at this is that Facebook hires very young people to screen news stories. These people come from certain schools, certain universities in the US which tend to be very liberal so it could be that the people they are hiring might in turn reflect nature of the audience.”

The analyst further said, “It could be pretty innocent but there is still something disturbing about it because when you are talking about one of the largest news sources and news aggregators in the world, you really want it to be objective.”

Talking about top Facebook management and Zuckerberg, the analyst discussed whether it is possible that the order to remove certain news stories comes from the top.

“Zuckerberg himself has made public statements indicating that he was thinking about using Facebook to help interfere with Donald Trump’s run for the presidency so we are talking about a lot of power by a very big company to influence politics,” Epstein said.

The analyst further spoke about monopoly of giant companies like Google and Facebook and how no one has resources to compete with them in any possible way.

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“The scientific research that I have been doing in the last few years led to a pretty big discovery of a phenomenon we call SEME — Search Engine Manipulation Effect.”

“We have rock solid evidence that if one candidate is favored in search rankings then in a big country that can easily drive tens of millions of votes to that candidate without anyone knowing that this is occurring and without leaving a paper trail so there are big scary things happening which have to do with new kinds of technology mainly on the internet.”

The analyst stressed the importance of finding out what is really going on in these new industries and maybe even take drastic action against them, like it was done with Standard Oil and AT&T which had a monopoly over the phone industry in the United States.

Regarding Washington’s take on this situation with Facebook, the analyst said that so far Washington lacks the will to dig deeper and find out what is going on.

The report itself is based on revelations of the company’s former news curator who claimed that stories about the CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, or Rand Paul were frequently prevented from making the Trending Topics list. Meanwhile, Facebook has publicly maintained that they are politically neutral. The company has also vowed to “take immediate steps to fix” its operational practices if they are “inadequate.”

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