WASHINGTON - Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg plans to discuss with nearly a dozen "conservative thought leaders" allegations the social media giant excluded conservative news from its "trending topics" section.
Because millions of viewers read Facebook's trending topics, some Republicans are concerned that any acts of censorship could influence the opinions of voters before the general election in November.
Zuckerberg will meet on Wednesday with conservative media figures such as Glenn Beck, Fox News Channel's "The Five" co-host Dana Perino and Zac Moffatt, co-founder of Targeted Victory, a technology company that aims to bring transparency to media buying.
"I want to have a direct conversation about what Facebook stands for and how we can be sure our platform stays as open as possible," Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post last week in which he mentioned meeting with conservatives.
Former Fox News host
Beck, a former Fox News host, took to Facebook early Sunday to say he is going to the meeting in Menlo Park, California, and "it would be interesting to look him (Zuckerberg) in the eye as he explains."
"While they are a private business and I support their right to run it any way they desire without government interference," Beck said, "it would be wonderful if a tool like face book [sic] INDEPENDENTLY CHOSE to hold up Freedom of speech and freedom of association as a corporate principle."
Zuckerberg invited the pundits to the company's headquarters following allegations last week from technology news website Gizmodo, which reported that a former Facebook employee said workers "routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers," while "artificially" adding other stories to the trending list.
Zuckerberg denied the allegations - which relied on a single anonymous source with self-described conservative leanings - and said Facebook has "found no evidence that this report is true." He said the company would continue to investigate.
"If we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it," he wrote in his Facebook post.
Facebook also made public its internal editorial guidelines, in the latest attempt to fight charges of political bias in the news stories it promotes to its 1.6 billion users.
A 28-page internal document offers details on how Facebook chooses material that appears in its popular news box. The trending feature was introduced in 2014 and appears to the right of the Facebook newsfeed.
The guidelines show how a combination of computer algorithms and human editors determine what should be a trending topic on a Facebook page. Algorithms first detect stories that are being widely shared on the platform, then human editors cross-reference the stories to see if they're being covered by 10 major news outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, BuzzFeed and Fox News Channel.
Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vice president of global operations, said the guidelines ensure that "trending" stories represent "the most important popular stories, regardless of where they fall on the ideological spectrum."
A 2015 study by Pew Research Center and the Knight Foundation found that 63 percent of Facebook's users - about 41 percent of all U.S. adults - get their news from the social media site.
Facebook is valued at about $350 billion.