Sunday 8 December 2019

Facebook removes pro-Brexit status update after being accused of bias

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook has removed a pro-Brexit status update button after being accused of bias.

The social network was criticised after users found an "in favour of leaving the EU" status update was automatically suggested when browsing a list of suggested posts, with no option for remain. Users had to search "EU" to find the pro-Remain status.

The Brexit status was available on Facebook's mobile app, but was not apparent in the browser version of the social network, according to Jon Worth, a blogger who writes about the EU. 

Facebook denied claims that it was biased towards pro-Brexit status updates, and said users' results were influenced by what their friends were sharing. It swiftly removed the pro-Leave update from the list of suggested Feelings, and both the pro and anti-Leave updates are now only available by searching.

"People scrolling through the list of activities see options based on what their friends and other people have been using," said the Facebook spokesman.

In the UK, Facebook is most popular among 13 to 34-year-olds, who make 34 per cent of its 31 million users in the country. Research from YouGov shows that younger voters under the age of 39 are more likely to vote to stay n the EU.

Facebook has been shown to have a significant effect on political discourse. In the US, 32 per cent of Facebook users post about politics and government, while 61 per cent of Americans between 20 to 35-years-old get their political news from the social network every week, according to research from the Pew Center. 

Facebook came under fire last month for allegedly showing a left-wing bias in the news it promotes to users. Former workers claimed the social network suppressed US conservative political news when compiling trending articles on the site. 

The company denied the allegations of bias, saying it had "rigorous guidelines" for maintaining neutrality in its news promotion.

To see the full range of EU status options, including leaving and remaining, go to Update Status, then Feeling/Activity, More... and type "EU" into the search bar. You can then choose "in favour of remaining in the EU" or "in favour of leaving the EU".

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