Social media giant Facebook apparently altered its algorithm to throttle traffic to left-leaning news websites on its news feed, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. And all this was done with permission from its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The decision to bring to effect the change happened three years ago.

According to the report, Zuckerberg approved the changes that would result in the websites receiving a cut in traffic and views. The social media giant had announced in 2017 that it would be rejigging its newsfeed to cut down on political news appearing on its newsfeed and would instead focus on posts from families and friends of its users. The decision, claims the report, was a result of this.

Strategic Move

Facebook logo
Facebook Reuters

Zuckerberg's decision to alter its algorithm to throttle traffic to left-leaning news websites on its news feed came in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential Election when the social media giant was accused of allowing, posting and sharing of fake news to mislead voters.

However, Facebook was concerned before going ahead with such a move, according to the WSJ report, as it believed that altering its algorithm would affect right-wing publications more than the left-wing news websites. This made Zuckerberg once again compel his engineers to re-alter the algorithmic changes so that it impacted left-wing publications more due to its policy change.

One of the major casualties of this change was left-leaning website Mother Jones, according to the report. Earlier, during the first round of algorithmic change, right-wing news website Daily Wire was getting affected the most though Zuckerberg shares a good rapport with the website's co-founder Ben Shapiro. However, this was just one of the many policy changes that impacted news from left-wing websites to appear on its newsfeed.

Strange Approach

mark zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg Reuters

The WSJ reports that Zuckerberg believed a new progressive news network, Courier Newsroom, which is part-owned by a left-leaning nonprofit with close ties to Democratic donors, was not a real news source because of its political ties. Thus in April, when Facebook went ahead with yet another policy change decision in a bid to prevent fake news, he ended up angering progressive sites who started claiming that Zuckerberg was less accommodating to their agenda.

The discussion around the legitimacy of Courier Newsroom as a news source led to the decision in April by Zuckerberg to limit the reach of partisan-backed sites on Facebook. By doing so, Facebook blocked the pages of Courier Newsroom from being included in Facebook News, restricting their access to the Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp platforms and also curtailing their advertising.

The move reportedly helped conservative sites, thus keeping Zuckerberg's wish. On the other hand, Facebook continued to allow posts from President Donald Trump, which progressives claim to be false.

No End to Allegations

The long list of allegations doesn't end there. According to the report, Zuckerberg has strictly told his left-leaning staff that they must understand that the core users of the site are more conservative and hence should act accordingly. It is said to have alienated even his COO Sheryl Sandberg and angered Joe Biden's campaign.

However, Facebook has denied giving preference to any political party in particular. 'Any insinuation that Facebook accommodates any one political party over another is simply false,' a Facebook spokesman told WSJ.