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Facebook rejects Gizmodo report that it was censoring conservative news

"We do not insert stories artificially into trending topics, and do not instruct our reviewers to do so."

Facebook is not censoring the news and trends it shows users on the site's trending section, Facebook says.

That declaration comes on the heels of a Gizmodo story from Monday morning reporting that Facebook's human curators censor conservative news stories from appearing in the Trending Topics section. The report included a claim that those curators were encouraged to "artificially inject" stories into the trending section even if they weren't popular enough to merit inclusion.

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Late Monday evening, Facebook exec Tom Stocky, the man in charge of the company's Trending section, posted a lengthy rebuttal to the Gizmodo report that claimed none of those things are true.

Facebook user
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Stocky said that topics are surfaced via an algorithm, and human editors are used to sift through those topics to ensure their relevance and "disregard junk or duplicate topics, hoaxes or subjects with insufficient sources," but are not asked to add their own stories.

"We do not insert stories artificially into trending topics, and do not instruct our reviewers to do so," he said.

Stocky also reiterated a shorter statement that Facebook shared earlier in the day specifically addressing the censorship claims. He said company guidelines did not allow curators to discriminate in topics based on political perspectives or the news outlet that reported them.

Stocky says that Facebook tracks its curators actions, and "violating our guidelines is a fireable offense."

Much of the media world was up in arms Monday about the social network's role in promoting certain stories. Facebook has long argued that it is a neutral platform, and that the almighty algorithm decides what content is suggested and appears in peoples' feeds. Gizmodo's report certainly put that idea on its head.

That's a big deal. Facebook drives a lot of traffic for publishers, but more importantly, its algorithm determines what information its 1.6 billion users see every month. A biased algorithm, or biased curators, could potentially push a specific political or social agenda. (Facebook says its feed is as "neutral" as possible, but the people who set the rules for the feed are biased, like all humans.)

Stocky's post aligns with what Facebook told Recode last August, which is that its human editors do not select content that appears in the trending section beyond simply "approving" it after it is surfaced by the algorithm.

Earlier in the evening Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus started a petition demanding Facebook respond to the story.

Here's Stocky's full post.

By Kurt Wagner, Recode.net.

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