Friday morning saw Mark Zuckerberg having difficulty in explaining Facebook's latest, and controversial, new partner and how this new partner fits into its mission of bringing people together.
The Verge reports that Facebook News is partnering with a variety of regional newspapers and some major national partners including USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. The controversial thing is, these sources also include Breitbart, a far-right site whose co-founder, Steve Bannon, is on record as saying it is a platform for the white nationalist "alt-right". Breitbart has a reputation for inaccuracy and incendiary reporting, which often comes at the expense of people of colour and immigrants.
Why Breitbart, Mark?
Naturally, including Breitbart led to questions that Mark Zuckerberg tried to field. He told Washington Post columnist, Margaret Sullivan, that Facebook would have "objective standards" for quality.
Marc Tracy of the New York Times asked Zuckerberg how Breitbart served that cause. The Facebook CEO emphasized politics instead of reporting: “Part of having this be a trusted source is that it needs to have a diversity of views in there, so I think you want to have content that represents different perspectives." Zuckerberg was also quite vague about the inclusion of Breitbart saying: "having someone be possible or eligible to show up” doesn’t guarantee frequent placement. “But I certainly think you want to include a breadth of content in there."
Critics of Zuckerberg's answer, not to mention the inclusion of Breitbart at all, is an example of Facebook surrendering principle to appease right-wing entities. Mark Zuckerberg wants to win over Republicans, including lawmakers who have given him a hard time in congress over claims of anti-conservative bias.
Fake News Again
Zuckerberg noted that outright misinformation is not allowed on Facebook News, according to a New York Times editorial. "If a publisher posts misinformation, it will no longer appear in the product," said Zuckerberg. That being said, Breitbart would only stay on FB News if it follows the rules. So why accept a news source that is known for dishing out fake news at all? It could spark more difficulties for Facebook if Zuckerberg were to kick out sources like Breitbart, angering Republicans and far-right conservatives.