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Facebook had been accused of bias against conservatives in its Trending Topics feed
Last week a firestorm broke out when Facebook was accused by a former contractor of routinely preventing stories from conservative news outlets from appearing in its "Trending Topics" sidebar due to political bias.
While Facebook categorically denied that this had ever happened, conservative media ran with it. So Mark Zuckerberg, in full damage control mode, set up a meeting on Wednesday with Facebook executives and a number of conservative bigwigs, including Glenn Beck and former U.S. Senator Jim Demint, to discuss some of the issues that conversatives have had with the site.
Apparently it went well, if the social media reactions of those that attended are any indication, with many calling the meeting constructive and praising the company for listening to their concerns.
That included Barry Bennett, an adviser to Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Great meeting & first step at Facebook today. Facebook is committed to being an open platform for all political views. More work to be done!— Barry Bennett (@BBennett152) May 19, 2016
Arthur Brooks, president of the nonprofit American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a Facebook note, that those at the company "clearly understand that conservative Americans were frustrated and angry to read that Facebook staff might have been discriminating against trending topics that favored the conservative outlook."
"I hope that this is the beginning of serious efforts to combat the risk of systemic bias. Facebook has a tremendous opportunity to out-innovate old media models and win over customers who are hungry for ways to separate the signal from the noise. That won’t happen if new media falls victim to the same traps that have damaged the reputation of the traditional press."
S.E. Cupp, a commentator for CNN, also wrote a note on Facebook, calling the meeting "productive," and said that it went "very well."
"This was not a photo-op, but a constructive dialogue meant to learn from one another. I am looking forward to a continuing conversation about this issue and others," she wrote.
"I was especially pleased to learn that Facebook agrees that conservatives and Silicon Valley share many similar concerns when it comes to security, regulation, privacy and free markets, and that there is fertile ground for our two communities to work together more often. If conservative ideas can find a partner in Silicon Valley, and Silicon Valley can find a partner in conservative policy, imagine what we can accomplish."
She also appeared on her own network to discuss the meeting, where she talked about some of her idea for not having a similar problem come up again. That included exposing those employees to other, meaning conservative, points of view.
Former White House press secretary Dana Perino, who currently works at Fox News, and Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker, were also there, and they spoke to Megyn Kelly about the experience.
"I will tell you this, from the mood of the meeting, they definitely don't think this is a joke," said Perino. 'I found them to be genuine and sincere and that they acknowledge that they have a trust problem with a significant portion of their customer base, and that they were trying to figure out a way, at least a first step, to open a dialogue so that they can try to fix it in the long run."
Interestingly, she also noted that the meeting wasn't really about the Trending Topics problem, but touched on many other issues as well, including users being blocked on the site.
Of course, Zuckerberg also wrote about the meeting, in which he noted that "conservatives and Republicans have always been an important part of Facebook." That has translated into Donald Trump having more Facebook fans than any other presidential candidate, and Fox News driving more interactions "than any other news outlet in the world."
"We've built Facebook to be a platform for all ideas. Our community's success depends on everyone feeling comfortable sharing anything they want. It doesn't make sense for our mission or our business to suppress political content or prevent anyone from seeing what matters most to them," he said.
"Still, I know many conservatives don't trust that our platform surfaces content without a political bias. I wanted to hear their concerns personally and have an open conversation about how we can build trust. I want to do everything I can to make sure our teams uphold the integrity of our products."
So there you have it: against all odds, it seems like just about everyone came out of this meeting feeling pretty good about the future. Maybe there is hope for all of is after all.
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