CBS Defends Facebook: ‘They Didn’t Have to Meet’ With Conservatives

CBS and ABC on Wednesday highlighted a meeting with influential conservatives and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over allegations that the social media site is censoring right-leaning news stories. Yet, ABC’s Good Morning America allowed a mere 14 seconds on the story and CBS This Morning’s Gayle King defended the company. 

Co-host Gayle King spun, “They didn't have to meet at all. So, call it PR or not, it's still interesting they're saying, ‘Come on, we want to hear what you have to say.’” Reporter Jan Crawford explained, “An anonymous Facebook former staffer told the outlet that Facebook employs manipulated user data to routinely suppress news stories of interest to conservative readers.” 

She added, “Mark Zuckerberg will have to answer today to leading conservatives as he tries to bat down allegations of anti-conservative bias within his social media empire.” One of those conservatives is Media Research Center President Brent Bozell. In a statement, Bozell declared

“I look forward to sitting down with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook because, as I’ll explain to them, no one knows more about liberal bias in the media than we do. We have been documenting and exposing it for almost 30 years. Facebook has a serious problem. Trust is everything and now conservatives don’t trust them. My hope is that today’s meeting will begin to put concerns to rest.”

CBS contributor Nicholas Thompson focused solely on the PR and not the content of the accusations. He huffed, “Facebook needs to their crisis to go away. If they can get conservatives to come to Menlo Park, make nice with them, have them post and say, ‘You know what? We trust Mark Zuckerberg.’”

Over on GMA, Amy Robach quickly related: 

AMY ROBACH: Also this morning, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg is sitting down with a group of prominent Republican figures including a senior adviser to Donald Trump and Glenn Beck to address allegations Facebook suppressed conservative news stories and sources. 

NBC’s Today ignored the story, but did cover it on Tuesday. For that full report, journalist Miguel Almaguer described “claims that the social media excluded conservative news from its trending topics.” He added, “A handful of conservative leaders meeting directly with Mark Zuckerberg. An important step, say those involved, to getting to the bottom of some serious accusations.” 

Over on CNN, Wednesday, Brian Stelter noted, “We've just heard Brent Bozell, the head of the Media Research Center, a long-time advocate who has complained about liberal media bias will be there as well.” 

A transcript of the CBS This Morning segment is below: 

CBS TM
5/18/16
7:16

GAYLE KING: A group of influential conservatives will gather today at Facebook's Silicon Valley headquarters. The highly anticipated meeting with CEO Mark Zuckerberg follows allegations that Facebook suppressed politically conservative stories from its trending topics. Jan Crawford is here. She is really here at the table. 

CHARLIE ROSE: And so happy to be here. 

JAN CRAWFORD: And so am I. 

KING: You have more on who will be there and will not be in attendance today. Welcome. 

CRAWFORD: Thank you, Gayle and good morning. So, Mark Zuckerberg, I mean he has said he wants it to be a direct conversation about what Facebook stands for and how to keep the platform as open as possible. But those planning to attend the meeting say they want a better understanding of how Facebook decides what news stories its 1.6 billion users see as trending. 

MARK ZUCKERBERG: We can build something and make it better.  

CRAWFORD: Mark Zuckerberg will have to answer today to leading conservatives as he tries to bat down allegations of anti-conservative bias within his social media empire. Among expected attendees, senior Trump adviser Barry Bennett, former Senator Jim Demint, and TV and radio host Glenn Beck. 

GLENN BECK: I just want to listen. I want to look Mark Zuckerberg in the eye and get a gauge of him as a man and see is he telling the truth. 

CRAWFORD: Beck was one of the topics Facebook reportedly censored in its trending news section, according to a report by the tech news site Gizmodo. An anonymous Facebook former staffer told the outlet that Facebook employs manipulated user data to routinely suppress news stories of interest to conservative readers. 

BECK: I don't think it is a situation where all of Facebook is in on some plan. I don't think that. 

CRAWFORD: While some are ready to listen to what Zuckerberg has to say, but not everybody has RSVP'd yes. 

MATT SCHLAPP: I think there is a PR ploy and I think I would have been a prop in a meeting. 

CRAWFORD: Matt Schlapp is chairman of the American Conservative Union.  

SCHLAPP: What we want is transparency and fairness in how they report and how formulas work on the news. That's all we want. 

FACEBOOK VIDEO: How to know what's trending -- 

SCHLAPP: Facebook says it has no evidence of any political bias but is conducting a full investigation. 

UNIDENTIFIED: Facebook needs to their crisis to go away. If they can get conservatives to come to Menlo Park, make nice with them, have them post and say, “You know what? We trust Mark Zuckerberg.” That is a win for Facebook. 

CRAWFORD: Now, Facebook is also facing scrutiny on Capitol Hill, a U.S. Senate committee has opened an inquiry to the company's practices. 

KING: Interesting meeting. They didn't have to meet at all. So, call it PR or not, it's interesting they're saying, “Come on, we want to hear what you have to say.”  

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