The backlash for Facebook over a former contractor’s accusations of bias against conservatives isn’t over. The company added a “political bias” component to its already-existing unconscious bias training.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg announced the decision at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, at an event broadcast live on Facebook.
The social media giant's class on managing unconscious bias already addressed racial bias, age bias, gender bias and national bias, and it will now include political bias. All employees in leadership roles are required to take the training class.
“As we think about helping people understand different points of view and being open to different points of view, we’re dealing with political bias as well going forward,” Sandberg said in a conversation with AEI President Arthur Brooks.
The decision comes after a report from Gawker’s tech blog Gizmodo where a former contractor alleged people in charge of Facebook’s trending topics section were suppressing conservative news.
“I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz,” the anonymous curator told Gizmodo.
The report led to Facebook investigating the accusations and finding no trace of systematic bias. “That’s a pretty important accusation, and it’s one we take seriously. It’s also one which frankly rang true to some people because there is concern that Silicon Valley companies have a liberal bias. ... We didn't find a liberal bias, but we still took additional steps,” Sandberg said Wednesday.
Still, Facebook took several steps to mend and improve its relationship with conservatives. CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted high-profile conservatives, including Glenn Beck and Donald Trump adviser Barry Bennett, at its Menlo Park, California, headquarters in May. The company also introduced new guidelines for the trending topics section.
When asked about Facebook’s unexpected jump into becoming a media company and how it will address that going forward, Sandberg spoke against that viewpoint. “We’re a tech company. We’re not a media company,” she said. “We’re not trying to hire journalists, and we’re not trying to write news.”
Facebook is holding itself accountable to companywide diversity, however. “We think to build a product that 1.6 billion people use, you need diversity,” Sandberg said.