Facebook to promote content from white supremacist conspiracy site Breitbart

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The so-called 'platform for the alt-right' will be part of the Facebook News.

Facebook announced on Friday that it would debut a new tab on its platform for readers to get news from a range of media sites it deems to have sufficient "integrity." The tech giant says it will compensate those companies financially for their content and that it will include "general, topical, diverse and local news."

But according to a report from Bloomberg News, Facebook News will include content from at least one very questionable source — a far-right conspiracy site whose former executive chairSteve Bannon once proclaimed it "the platform for the alt-right."

After speaking with Facebook's head of news partnerships, former news anchor and public schools critic Campbell Brown, who is reported to have "deep Republican ties," Bloomberg reported that Facebook News will "will feature articles chosen partly by Facebook employees who 'will be free from editorial intervention by anyone at the company.'

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The section will also be personalized based on news that users prefer, and users can hide articles, topics or publishers they "don't want to see." Among the roughly 200 publishers whose content will be included, the outlet noted, will be "conservative-leaning sites, including Breitbart News."

Brown told Bloomberg that her team "worked really hard to honor [those outlets'] business model and recognize the importance of original reporting."

According to Facebook's announcement, its content will be held to rigorous standards:

They also need to abide by Facebook's Publisher Guidelines, these include a range of integrity signals in determining product eligibility, including misinformation — as identified based on third-party fact checkers — community standards violations (e.g., hate speech), clickbait, engagement bait and others. We'll continually check Pages' integrity status to ensure eligibility criteria is consistently being met.

But Breitbard has been rife with hate speech for years, including warnings about "black crime" and "trannies." The Anti-Defamation League called it "the premier website of the 'alt right' — a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists."

In 2014, Politifact caught Breitbart attacking then-attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch for having "represented [the] Clintons during Whitewater," even though that had been a different attorney with the same name.

During the 2016 campaign, the site recklessly published conspiracy theories about how Hillary Clinton was concealing a serious brain injury, citing a vague "law enforcement" source.

In an August 2016 fact-check, Snopes.com wrote, "the notoriously unreliable Breitbart web site published an article based on 'conservative icon' Sarah Palin's quipping that 'paid anti-Trump protesters show presidential candidate Donald Trump is creating jobs even before taking office,'" adding that, "as usual, Breitbart had a problem with not being able to demonstrate that what they were reporting was actually true."

And in October 2017, the Sonoma County sheriff's office slammed Breitbart for falsely reporting that deadly wildfires had been started by an undocumented immigrant. "This is completely false, bad, wrong information that Breitbart started and is being put out into the public in a very strong way," a spokesperson said at the time.

Last October, Wikipedia's administrators determined Breitbart "should not be used, ever, as a reference for facts, due to its unreliability."

Facebook's definition of a "third-party fact checker" has been the subject of significant criticism. Last September, it censored an article from the progressive news site ThinkProgress because it was deemed "false" by a fact-check done by the conservative site The Weekly Standard. Both publications have since shuttered, but now the extreme right-wing site Daily Caller serves as fact-checking site for the company. (The author of this article is a former ThinkProgress reporter.)

A Facebook spokesperson said in an email that "the number of publishers in the tab will grow over time — and it will be dynamic. If a publisher falls out of eligibility for posting misinformation, or clickbait or scraping content — for example, they will no longer appear in Facebook News." She did not address why Breitbart was eligible to appear in the product to begin with.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.