It's Time to Start Worrying About Facebook

The company has unrivaled power to shape world events
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2016 4:38 PM CDT
Facebook doesn't see itself as a media organization. But maybe it's time that changed.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

(Newser) – "The question isn’t whether Facebook has outsize power to shape the world—of course it does, and of course you should worry about that power," Farhad Manjoo writes for the New York Times. In 2010, a study demonstrated Facebook was able to get users to vote just by showing them that their friends voted. What if one day it decided to do that only for users who support a particular political party or policy? In addition, Facebook has become the go-to news source for more than a billion users. The site has become such a powerful and influential media force that reporters and editors "look to Facebook the same way nesting baby chicks look to their engorged mother—as the source of all knowledge and nourishment," Manjoo writes.

But despite that, Facebook's users don't see it as a media company. Perhaps more worrisome: Facebook doesn't see itself that way either. "Many mainstream outlets have a rigorous set of rules and norms about what’s acceptable and what’s not in the news business," Manjoo writes. Facebook doesn't. Or if it does, nobody knows. This week, a former Facebook employee accused the company of burying conservative news items and bumping them from its trending list. Facebook claims its news items are determined by algorithms, but those algorithms are as beholden to human input as any newspaper layout. Manjoo argues it's time for both Facebook and the world to recognize the immense power the site has to influence world events. Click for his full column. (Read more Facebook stories.)

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