Facebook News Criticized for Including Breitbart as ‘Trusted’ Source

The social media platform’s news service is already facing pushback on day one

mark zuckerberg facebook
Getty Images

Facebook News launched Friday after much hype… and immediately received backlash for outlets included in its list of qualifying publishers, most notably right-wing site Breitbart.

First reported as one of the sources Facebook is using in its new platform by Bloomberg, Breitbart’s inclusion lit up Twitter Friday as journalists began listing some of the site’s inflammatory posts and resurrecting reporting on its origin and mission.

“In 2016, Steve Bannon called Breitbart a ‘platform for the alt-right.’ In 2017, @Bernstein published a blockbuster piece on how Breitbart was smuggling white nationalism into the mainstream. Now @facebook is set to  list Breitbart as a ‘trusted’ news source,” wrote Christopher Mathias, who covers the far right for HuffPost.

CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy tweeted “outside Breitbart,” it was “unclear” what sites “known for misinformation” were part of Facebook’s news tab.

A spokesperson for Breitbart, responding to TheWrap’s request for comment, said “Breitbart News is outraged to be lumped with the likes of CNN.”

In the past, Breitbart has said “the idea that Breitbart is targeting racists, etc., is completely false.”

A spokesperson for Facebook did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

In the Friday announcement of Facebook News, the social media site laid out the qualifications publishers need to meet to be included in the new feature, for which they are paid: “They need to be in our News Page Index, which we developed in collaboration with the industry to identify news content. 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. Lastly, they must serve a sufficiently large audience,” said the announcement.

As reported by TheWrap, monthly traffic on Breitbart has plummeted nearly 72% from 17.3 million in January 2017, when President Donald Trump took office, to 4.9 million in June 2019, according to the data-tracking firm ComScore. And while traffic on most politically oriented news sites has dropped significantly in 2019, the decline has been particularly acute for Breitbart.

This latest criticism of Facebook comes after CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week that his having dinner with conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro is simply “part of learning” from people with “a wide range of viewpoints” — something he thinks more people would benefit from.