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Facebook unlikely to feel much backlash to bottom line, pros say

Whatever the reaction to allegations that Facebook deliberately suppressed conservative news, it's unlikely the company's bottom line will be impacted, experts told CNBC Tuesday.

According to a Monday report by Gizmodo, a former contract worker for Facebook said the social networking giant allegedly often "suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers" by keeping such stories out of its newsfeed. (Facebook issued a statement denying the claims.)

If the workers weren't following official Facebook policies, it's likely the news will blow over, said technology analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research.

"The specific case here isn't that damaging," Dawson said. He added: "I don't think it's going to cause any users to stop using Facebook – it now has so much power that it's hard for most people to contemplate giving up on it for principled reasons."

A Facebook executive fired back Tuesday. "We have in place strict guidelines for our trending topic reviewers as they audit topics surfaced algorithmically: Reviewers are required to accept topics that reflect real world events, and are instructed to disregard junk or duplicate topics, hoaxes, or subjects with insufficient sources," Tom Stocky, Facebook's vice president of search, wrote in a post.

Gizmodo's report detailed accusations from an anonymous group of former Facebook news curators, one of whom said that Facebook had "a chilling effect on conservative news."

"Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to systematically discriminate against sources of any ideological origin and we've designed our tools to make that technically not feasible," Stocky responded. "At the same time, our reviewers' actions are logged and reviewed, and violating our guidelines is a fireable offense."

Republican Senator John Thune demanded a more detailed response from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who in the past has had spats with conservative politicians like Donald Trump.

Republican presidential hopefuls have made extensive use of Facebook advertising. Zac Moffatt, the top digital strategist for Romney's 2012 campaign, told the Guardian in January that "Facebook is the easiest and most effective platform." Pew Research Center found that consistent conservatives are more likely than liberals to pay "a lot" or "some" attention to political posts on Facebook.

Still, it's also true that consistent conservatives are somewhat less likely than liberals to get political news on Facebook or Twitter, according to Pew. Pew attributes the gap to the fact that those who identify as conservative are less likely to use Facebook or Twitter at all.

That matters because being an open gateway to information is a key part of the Facebook brand, with the second part of their mission statement reading "People use Facebook to discover what's going on in the world," said Paul Munkholm, director of strategy at digital agency Kettle.

"If users are suddenly unable to trust Facebook, that could have long term consequences to the image of the company," Munkholm said.

But one venture capitalist said that Stocky's logic seems obvious and the Gizmodo report doesn't seem consistent with Silicon Valley's view of Stocky.

"[Censorship] is not in their interest from a user point of view," Kate Mitchell, partner at Scale Venture Partners, told CNBC's "Squawk Alley." "I happen to even know at their headquarters they host both conservative and liberal politicians to meet with their employees."

With most ads targeted toward specific users, and brands moving toward more liberal values like equality and diversity, it's unlikely that Facebook would see declining advertising as a result of the tumult, Todd Alchin, chief creative strategist at media agency Noble People.

"If organizations back away, Facebook won't feel it," Alchin wrote. "I think the expectation is that conservative news organizations will back away from spending with Facebook. But we expect to see the reverse. ... BuzzFeed and the New York Times have generally been at the forefront of striking deals with Facebook to make their content easier to access. I wouldn't be surprised to see FOX or Drudge enter similar deals to counteract any suppression they're getting."