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Facebook will require political bias training for employees

Facebook's news power and new responsibilities

It’s easy to forget that people are ultimately responsible for the way technologies work.

After anonymous sources accused Facebook workers of promoting liberal leaning stories online, the company is under pressure to prove that it’s as politically neutral as it says it is.

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg defended Facebook’s policies at event on Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C.

She said the company is taking additional steps to help employees be aware of and control their personal political views.

“We’re going to add in a [managing-bias module] on political bias,” Sandberg told Arthur Brooks, president of conservative think tank AEI.

Facebook (FB, Tech30) has a set of training videos called Managing Unconscious Bias that aim to make employees aware of their personal biases and teach them how to counteract them.

The current videos address things like race and sexual orientation, or the fact that someone is a mother.

The new political bias module, Sandberg said, will help people understand and be open to different points of view. A Facebook spokeswoman said there’s no timeline yet on when the module will launch and did not specify what will be included in it.

Related: Sheryl Sandberg and 55 execs back Clinton for president

Early last month, Facebook was slammed by a Gizmodo report that said the Trending Topics team routinely suppressed conservative news. The report also accused certain workers of “injecting” a liberal bias into the news that it promoted.

Facebook has maintained that its policies “prohibit the prioritization of one ideological view over another” and that the company conducts regular audits of its team.

Sandberg reiterated these principles on Wednesday.

“Facebook is not going to inject anything into anyone,” she said. “We don’t have a point of view. We’re not trying to make you have a point of view.”

Facebook is already used by 1.65 billion people a month — and its user base continues to grow. As it strikes more deals with media companies to publish and distribute their content, people are increasingly concerned about the power it has over news.

When asked about this on Wednesday, Sandberg simply said it isn’t true.

“We’re clear about the industry we’re in — we’re a tech company. We’re not a media company, so we’re not trying to hire journalists, and we’re not trying to write news.”

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