Fox News’ Dana Perino is visiting Facebook headquarters tomorrow after being invited by CEO Mark Zuckerberg to discuss accusations that the social media company deliberately suppresses conservative news in its Trending Topics section.
“I’m going in there with an open mind and some curiosity,” Perino told TheWrap. “If I make one point, the bigger-picture problem across the board is that Silicon Valley as a whole is a great champion of diversity, but usually when they talk about diversity, they mean gender and race. Diversity of thought is also very valuable.”
Perino is a co-host of Fox News Channel’s “The Five,” which is regularly among the highest-rated shows in cable news. She was also the White House Press Secretary under George W. Bush, so it’s safe to say Perino is familiar with the type of conservative news Facebook is accused to burying.
Perino says she’s “not exactly sure” why she got the invite. It could be a combo of her role in the Bush administration, her Fox News ties or perhaps she simply got invited because of her social media following.
“I have a pretty healthy Facebook following,” Perino said. “I like the engagement that I do there. I don’t know if that was one of their considerations, but they reached out with an invitation on Saturday and Fox News decided to send me.”
Radio host Glenn Beck, Trump campaign senior adviser Barry Bennett, Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, CNN commentator SE Cupp and former Mitt Romney staffer Zac Moffatt are among the conservatives expected to join Perino.
Perino, who has never met Zuckerberg, is ready to defend conservative values if necessary, and feels her current gig has prepared her for the environment.
“I think there are 12 participants in the meeting plus Mark Zuckerberg. If you think about ‘The Five,” there is five people with 42 minutes of air time and all these topics; when you boil it down, there is not much time to get a lot of words out. You have to be smart about it,” Perino said.
Perino explained how she became a conservative despite media bias, in her book “And The Good News Is…”
“I grew up around people who mostly held conservative or libertarian views; the liberals I knew were fairly quiet about it … At the time I didn’t know how liberal the media was, but looking back at clips, I’m amazed that after all the news I consumed, I still emerged as I did,” Perino wrote.
Perino believes that the majority of media outlets lean toward the left, but she doesn’t think the same can be said for social media.
“I think that social media has been very good for conservatives. Before social media, it was very difficult to get your message out to a mass audience with no filter,” Perino said while pointing out that Fox News was the No. 1 brand on Facebook in 2015. “Now, all of the sudden you have lots of different ways to communicate direct to consumer or to utilize opportunities with the media to leverage a chance to express themselves in lots of different ways.”
Last week, The Guardian uncovered internal Facebook files that outline editorial decisions throughout the company’s news operation, including guidelines on how to “inject” and “blacklist” particular stories.
“The guidelines are sure to bolster arguments that Facebook has made discriminatory editorial decisions against right-wing media,” The Guardian’s Sam Thielman wrote.
Perino thinks the mix of humans and algorithm used to determine Trending Topics needs to be “more transparent or improved,” but feels Zuckerberg can right the ship.
“When Facebook decided to get more into the news business, it did open itself up for some criticism like this and I think that they recognize that now. They’re trying to correct it,” Perino said. “The fact that they’re even holding this meeting shows they want to make the right choice to be more inclusive.”
Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post last week, “I want to have a direct conversation about what Facebook stands for and how we can be sure our platform stays as open as possible.”
While many users have been led to believe Facebook’s Trending Topics feature is based on an objective algorithm, the documents revealed that a small editing staff has largely been responsible for what appears in the now-controversial section of the social network’s newsfeed.
The leaked papers popped up after Gizmodo reported claims by former Facebook workers that colleagues prevented conservative topics and publications from appearing in the Trending Topics sidebar next to users’ primary news feeds.
The very next day, the Senate Commerce Committee sent a letter to Zuckerberg requesting information regarding accusations that the social media platform purposely keeps conservative news out of its Trending Topics section.