Although the supposedly partial results behind Facebook’s trending news section caused conservative commentators to challenge Facebook over its practices, the New York Times column argues that trending news is ultimately a small section of the platform, while a larger bias hides behind the apparent objectivity of Facebook’s newsfeed. This is because the newsfeed is determined by an algorithm, and any algorithm, no matter how elaborate and sophisticated, is inherently biased.
The piece argues that algorithms are often presented as objective, but in reality always reflect the values and goals of their creators. Moreover, it is often practically impossible to determine whether an algorithm’s output is “correct”. In the case of Facebook, for instance the killing of Michael Brown in August 2014 failed to generate widespread attention on Facebook and became a national controversy only through other routes.