Update: Facebook has now responded to the post, see our update at the end.
A Facebook employee has sparked a furious backlash in a closed group for media and news outlets by sharing an article suggesting Facebook Live is the "new Fox News" for right-wing pundits, alongside an enthusiastic comment.
Posting on Facebook's official closed group for News, Media & Publishing, where the Facebook News Partnerships team talk to pre-vetted "members of the news, media & publishing industries at large," the employee apparently failed to notice that the header image for the Backchannel article contained a screenshot of comments on a conservative Facebook livestream, one of which appears to be advocating police violence against anti-Trump protesters.
The employee - whose name we've censored to prevent targeted harassment - was recently hired at Facebook's Strategic Partner Development, Political Publishers division. The article centres around the idea that Facebook Live is becoming a valuable tool for "the riffs and the rants" of right-leaning political commentators like Dan Bongino, who Backchannel's Alexis Sobel Fitts reports created a "Facebook Live [broadcast] that he’s sure helped keep Hillary Clinton from the Oval Office," in which he called the then-Presidential hopeful "a fraud" and a "total fake."
Presumably, the point of the post was to quietly continue to counteract the damaging revelation published by our friends at Gizmodo US last year, that Facebook employees routinely suppressed conservative news. However, as they should probably have predicted, many of the publishers who use the page to keep up-to-date on the Facebook platform saw this as an endorsement of the damaging and often hateful "fake news" epidemic that MPs have recently vowed to investigate. (Again, we've censored identities as this is not a public page and those employees are not necessarily speaking for their publications).
Alexis Fitts, who wrote the article the Facebook employee shared, tells Gizmodo: "I'm liberal. I'm also Jewish. I'm also the product of immigration. So personally, I've been horrified by the Trump administration — and the tone and timbre of the outlets that support him. But as a media critic, I think it's important to understand how ideas are spread — specifically, how new platforms change how people access information.
"Historically conservatives have been apt at colonising new forms of media to get their ideas to the world. I wrote about Facebook Live because it's important to understand how it works as a broadcast network. If you don't follow any of these sites, you probably don't know they exist; you definitely aren't reading what they're saying.
"As for the comments: those are fairly indicative of what I saw on other posts. But, to be fair, they aren't so far off from the kinds of hateful/vindictive comments that lots of media outlets get on their posts."
We couldn't possibly comment on that.
Speaking of not commenting, Facebook (eventually) declined to give official comment for this article, but the post remains up - albeit in a closed group - and another employee has posted what looks a fair bit like a statement in the comments - directly below one that succinctly says "disgusting":
Inevitably, this has kicked off another debate in the comments to the comments. Maybe that Fox News comparison was more accurate than they realised.
Main image: Facebook.