The media have been in a froth lately over news that Facebook’s “Trending Topics” are subject to human bias, supposedly to the detriment of conservative viewpoints. But American voters don’t really care, according to a survey from news analytics firm Morning Consult.
Forty-seven percent of survey respondents said they were “very comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” with social media networks determining the news that people see on their sites. Seventeen percent were “not very comfortable,” another 17 percent were “not comfortable” and 20 percent had no opinion.
Democrats were notably happier about the idea than Republicans — perhaps no surprise given the particular claims about Facebook. Fifty-five percent of Democrats and only 42 percent of Republicans were at least somewhat comfortable.
If the bias allegations are true — Facebook says they aren’t — the social giant’s news editors would sometimes suppress articles from conservative outlets in the Trending Topics module, a sort of sidebar where people can see “popular” stories. The response to those claims was strong enough that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged to meet with conservative media personalities this week.
In the same poll, Republicans were more likely than Democrats — 36 percent to 28 percent — to say the selection of news stories on social media should be determined purely by “the level of reader interest.”
Overall, 31 percent of survey respondents chose that option, versus news being determined by “editors at the social media companies” or by a combination of the two.
The online survey was conducted from May 13 to 15 among a national sample of 2,000 registered voters.
In a sense, reader interest is what drives Facebook. While Trending Topics are edited by humans, Facebook’s News Feed — the central hub where you consume content — operates according to an algorithm that shows you items you’re likely to interact with. Despite any…