According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.
In a Facebook post published after the election, former Facebook product designer Bobby Goodlatte blamed the social network for boosting the visibility of “highly partisan, fact-light media,” and for not taking bigger steps to combat the spread of fake news in the lead-up to the election. “A bias towards truth isn’t an impossible goal for News Feed,” he wrote. “But it’s now clear that democracy suffers if our news feeds incentivize bullshit.”