Publishing execs believe Facebook is overly deferential to conservative content

At a private meeting late last week, some publishing executives criticized Facebook Inc. for being overly accommodating to conservative outlets, days before social-media executives are to appear on Capitol Hill to discuss how content is displayed on their sites.

Executives from FacebookFB, +0.13% , Twitter Inc.TWTR, +0.68%  and YouTube are scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Facebook in particular has come under sustained criticism for how it mediates political discourse on its platform, and the social-media giant has hosted a number of meetings in recent weeks with various stakeholders to address the issue.

At the off-the-record meeting between Facebook officials and publishing executives in New York on Thursday, BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith said that, by his count, there were about six conservative-leaning publications among the dozen or so outlets represented at the gathering. He said the ratio implied a fundamental misconception among Facebook employees about the workings of the news industry, according to people familiar with his remarks.

Smith objected in particular to the presence of the Daily Caller, a conservative-leaning outlet whose journalistic standards he called into question. He said other conservative outlets present, such as the Weekly Standard, held higher standards.

Smith’s assessment of the Daily Caller’s journalistic standards was echoed by Lydia Polgreen, the editor in chief of HuffPost. She criticized the outlet for running a story that dredged up tweets, characterized by the Daily Caller as anti-Semitic, from one of HuffPost’s junior staffers before joining, according to people familiar with the matter. The tweets included a play on words for Anne Frank, the noted Jewish teenage diarist who was killed during the Holocaust.

This meeting came one day after Facebook came under scrutiny during an on-the-record question-and-answer session with journalists at its New York offices for its decision not to ban Infowars from its platform. Facebook’s chief of News Feed, John Hegeman, said the site doesn’t want to punish sites simply because they express controversial views.

An expanded version of this report appears on

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