Conservatives Split Over ‘Bias’ Meeting With Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

The split is likely indicative of a wider rift among conservatives.

May 17, 2016, 2:12 PM

— -- In the wake of reports last week alleging that curators of Facebook's "trending" news bar were actively suppressing certain stories on ideological grounds, conservatives were split regarding the virtues of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's so-called "olive branch" meeting with prominent members of their community.

It's a division that may be reflective of a wider rift among conservatives in the media.

News of Zuckerberg's effort to reach out to conservatives broke when Glenn Beck published a roughly 550-word post on Facebook, saying that he had been contacted by Zuckerberg this week to meet in Menlo Park, California, home to the social media site's sprawling headquarters. Beck confirmed that he would attend the meeting.

Mitt Romney's former digital director Zac Moffatt, Republican pollster and Washington Examiner columnist Kristen Soltis Anderson, Fox News' Dana Perino and CNN's S.E. Cupp will attend the meeting with Beck. Barry Bennett, a senior adviser to Donald Trump's campaign, will also be there on Wednesday, Facebook confirmed to ABC News.

Not everyone reacted positively to news of the meeting. The influential news aggregation website Drudge Report ran the headline "Glenn Beck to Grovel at Zuckerberg's Feet.", a website founded by former Drudge Report editor Andrew Breitbart, used the headline "Anti-Trump Conservatives to Meet with Facebook" on one of its stories, implying a more specific subtext of bias within Facebook's attempt to reach out to conservatives by disproportionately singling out critics of the presumptive GOP nominee.

PHOTO: Glenn Beck poses for a photo during Dish Network War Of The Words press conference at Hammerstein Ballroom, Sept. 13, 2012, New York. Milo Yiannopoulos, Tech Editor for Breitbart News, speaks at Bucknell University, Feb. 25, 2016.
Glenn Beck poses for a photo during Dish Network War Of The Words press conference at Hammerstein Ballroom, Sept. 13, 2012, New York. Milo Yiannopoulos, Tech Editor for Breitbart News, speaks in a YouTube video posted to the Bucknell University Conservatives Club's page at Bucknell University, Feb. 25, 2016.
Getty Images/YouTube

Beck, Moffatt and Perino have criticized Trump at different times throughout the primary process. Beck, an ardent supporter of former presidential candidate Ted Cruz, frequently asked his radio audience to "pray" for the Texas senator.

Milo Yiannopoulos, a commentator and rising star of the so-called "alt-right" movement, challenged Zuckerberg to a debate in a YouTube video posted on May 14 regarding allegations of what he referred to as "censoring conservatives."

"Users deserve to know whether the trending topics on Facebook really are trending or whether it's just something that some social justice warrior in San Francisco wants you to believe is popular," Yiannopoulos said in the clip.

"We have not responded," a spokesperson for Facebook told ABC News regarding Yiannopoulos' debate offer.

Facebook is known for being proactive in working to ensure that users are not offended by posts. A spokesperson for Facebook was reluctant to give details about specific challenges curators of its trending topics section have faced, instead referring ABC News to the website's information page about trending topics. The company said its algorithm "does not consider perspective or politics."

Regarding a controversial headline published on Breitbart yesterday branding conservative pundit Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew,” the Facebook spokesperson said a post like that would “likely be flagged as offensive or sensational."

Yiannopoulos and did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ABC News. published a post Monday explaining why its staff declined an invitation from Zuckerberg.

"We have zero interest in a Facebook photo-op," the post, co-authored by Breitbart editor-in-chief Alexander Marlow and colleague Stephen Bannon, said. "We do not want, nor do we need, Facebook’s corporate 'validation.'”

Facebook refused to comment on which specific conservative media personalities were invited to the Menlo Park meeting, or upon what basis the names were chosen.

For many prominent conservatives, the allegations of ideological bias at Facebook came as no surprise. John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, a monthly magazine that is regarded as being highly influential among conservative intellectuals, referred to Facebook as being "an extension" of the bias he claims to have seen while working in the media for the last 35 years.

"Social media is an equalizer for the conservative movement and has helped us reach new audiences," Podhoretz told ABC News by phone. "What Facebook is doing is ultimately self-destructive because their goal as a business is to get people to stay on their website for a long time. If conservatives are not being adequately served by the content on their website, they'll go elsewhere."

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