Twitter and Facebook Trending Topics incidents highlight emerging social media bias

Costolo reportedly asked for a new algorithm that could filter abusive tweets, but didn't stop there. He also asked the media partnerships team to manually censor tweets in case the algorithm was inconsistent.


According to a report in Buzzfeed, former Twitter employees have said Dick Costolo filtered tweets during the #AskPOTUS townhall, the President's Q&A session in May last year. Costolo reportedly asked for a new algorithm that could filter abusive tweets, but didn't stop there. He also asked the media partnerships team to manually censor tweets in case the algorithm was inconsistent. Most senior management was kept away from this decision, and others were understandably upset about it.

We know that was the time when Twitter was striving to make its platform more relevant as it struggled (and continues to struggle) with both numbers and revenue. It was an attempt at telling celebrities that its platform can be a space for high-profile personalities, who usually are known to prefer Reddit. It could have been an attempt to salvage the platform from the accuses of being a place for trolls and abuse. In another similar attempt trying to woo celebrities to conduct Q&As on its platform, the company is believed to have done the same during a Q&A with Caitlyn Jenner.

Now, Twitter isn't the only one. It wasn't long ago that everyone was up in arms against Facebook's political bias. Former employees had accused Facebook of suppressing conservative stories. “This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users,” the Gizmodo report had stated. Well, it just didn't end there, Facebook sometimes injected stories into the trending section. In short, it worked just like a traditional news room, wherein the new curators have the power to power the stories.

And, that clearly wasn't the first time that the social giant has been accused of being biased.

https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/710884889797722112

Facebook was also accused of restricting users from access to about 30,322 emails and email attachments sent and received by Hillary Clinton during her tenure as secretary of state. They were obtained as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request. Reports hinted at Facebook censorship on pro-Trump and negative Hillary news. And, not-so-long-ago, Facebook was accused of deleting/blocking accounts of people sharing Pro-Kashmir content on the basis of violating Facebook’s Community Standards.

These platforms, that people follow so ardently, today have the power to impact your decisions. That says a lot. It isn't about supporting the right or wrong, but giving them the power to manipulate what can be fed to users whether it's right or wrong. And it only shows the double standards of what is being touted as a free and open platform to all. And, this could hurt Twitter even more.

Twitter, as a platform, is known to be a go-to-place to vent out frustrations, opinions, suggestions and whatever you can manage in those 140 characters. The platform is all about free speech, or at least that's what we've been made to believe all over the years. One of the reasons why the company is finding it so difficult to draw the line between abuse and opinion. But, looks like, there have been exceptions when all rules were bent. Remember, the blogpost saying how free tweets should flow during the Wikileaks conundrum. Well, looks like the company does have some exceptions when it comes to following its own principles.

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