The Facebook News Is Even Worse Than We Thought

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

A couple of days ago I mentioned that Facebook “tweaked” its news feed algorithm to help conservative sites and hurt liberal sites like Mother Jones. That was bad enough. But yesterday we learned it was far more malicious than we knew:

In late 2017, Zuckerberg told his engineers and data scientists to design algorithmic “ranking changes” that would dial down the temperature….[But] there was a hitch: Everyone knew that most of the untrustworthy “junk” on Facebook, when it came to politics, originated with “conservative/conspiratorial” sites. And while Facebook was under fire from both right and left, its chief worry—now that Republicans had regulatory power in Washington—was “getting Trump off their back.”…It was made clear that “we can’t do a ranking change that would hurt Breitbart.”

….The code was tweaked, and executives were given a new presentation showing less impact on these conservative sites and more harm to progressive-leaning publishers—including Mother Jones. “The problem was that the progressive outlets were real [news] outlets like yours,” recalls the ex-employee, “and the right ones were garbage outlets. You guys were one of the outlets who got singled out to balance the ledger.”

The full story is here. The end result was an enormous decline in traffic from Facebook and a consequent decline in revenue—which was undoubtedly the goal of the Republican activists (and Facebook VP Joel Kaplan, a former George Bush staffer) who lobbied for it.

In other words, this was no accident. Facebook was determined not to antagonize conservatives, regardless of their content, and the only way to do that was to reduce the reach of liberal sites. So they tweaked and tweaked until their algorithm had hurt Mother Jones and other liberal sites sufficiently and then rolled it out.

This is maddening. But we can make up for it via reader donations. So please help out if you can. Even if Donald Trump loses on November 3, the progressive fight will just be getting started. You can donate here:

https://secure.motherjones.com/flex/mj/key/7LIGHTB/src/7AHCK02%7cPAHCK02/

You can contribute once or sign up for a monthly donation. And it’s tax deductible. The more you donate, the more you save!

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate