By Sal Bommarito
I’m finding the brouhaha relating to Facebook’s “What’s Trending” a bit perplexing. The job of every news outlet is to present current events, stories and opinions that capture reader interest.
The most vocal crybabies in the growing controversy relating to Facebook are the largest news organizations. Clearly, they resent that anonymous editors at Facebook’s What’s Trending may be impacting the number of views of stories published, or shunned by Facebook’s service.
Facebook has an esoteric algorithm, a formula of sorts, that it uses to determine whether a specific story deserves to be posted on What’s Trending, and the prominence on the site it warrants.
Some journalists and news outlets contend that Facebook’s liberal employees eschew “conservative” perspectives. I’m not aware of any political preference polls of Facebook’s employees, but it’s likely they are biased towards the left because most of them are young and based on the West Coast. And, the company’s CEO occasionally speaks out on liberal issues.
Given that Facebook has 1.6 billion viewers and an enormous daily logon count, its readers are probably influenced to an extent by what stories the company decides to publish on What’s Trending (and their position on the site).
Since the birth of our nation, the press has fought aggressively against any intrusion into its constitutional right to report the news. Journalists, news organizations and their sources are protected. And, editors believe they have a divine right to all the facts relating to every newsworthy story.
There are no restrictions in the Constitution about how large any news outlet can be or how much influence it may foist upon its readers. Yet, Facebook’s prominence is under attack because it has access to so many readers.
The latest arguments are related to the fact that Facebook can make news because its reach is so expansive- something that every news outlet would kill to have. Facebook has garnered nearly 2 billion viewers, many of whom pour their hearts out and provide important data to Facebook in their posts.
The company takes this information and attempts to determine what its viewers want to read and their purchasing preferences, the latter of which they transmit to paying advertisers.
The world knows what Facebook is doing; it’s not a secret. The company uses data that 1.6 billion people freely offer to it. There’s nothing illegal or wrong with this process. It’s not a violation of anyone’s rights. It’s just damn good business.
If the nearly 2 billion viewers become uncomfortable, they could stop providing data to the company. There would be no penalties and all the big brother scare tactics would be moot.
The major problem with Facebook is that it is hesitant to admit to the world that it is such a powerful company. It’s trying not to ruffle the feathers of the other news and social media outlets that are envious of Facebook’s amazing relationship with its community.
The best response for the company would be to own up to its tremendous influence and be totally transparent. Facebook is giving its readers the news they want and the availability of products their postings say they have an interest in. Facebook is not big brother; it just a well-conceived and well-run company with a one of a kind franchise.
And finally, Facebook should admit that its reporting style may biased to a certain extent. All newspaper reporting is slanted to a certain extent by the perspectives of the news staff. Transparency is Facebook’s best defense against those that oppose its power and influence.