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Facebook is training employees to avoid political bias

After facing questions about how its widely used trending-topics feature is managed, the social network says it's going to ensure employees are aware of how political bias can affect their work and the company's products.

Facebook says it's going to teach its employees to watch out for political bias.

Facebook says it's going to teach its employees to watch out for political bias.

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Silicon Valley's new mantra: Have a problem? Solve it with training!

The latest example comes from Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, who said the company has begun teaching employees how to spot and manage political bias in their work, following outcry over the company's trending-topics feature and concerns it doesn't equally display conservative and liberal news topics.

The effort is part of a broader bias-management training Sandberg said employees undergo to learn about discrimination based on age, gender, nationality and ethnicity.

"We think a lot about diversity," she said in an interview Wednesday with the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute. "It's something our industry has struggled with."

It's also something Facebook specifically has struggled with ever since the tech blog Gizmodo wrote about allegations from former employees who say the company's trending-topics feature is actually a list of stories chosen by the company. Further, the story alleged that Facebook employees would not allow conservative-leaning stories to climb the trending-topics list.

Facebook said it investigated these allegations and found no signs of liberal bias. Still, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with prominent conservative media personalities to discuss the issue.

Now Facebook says it will train employees to spot political bias in their work, though the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about when this training will start and which divisions are being trained first.

It's unclear if this effort will pay off. Facebook already trains employees to spot ethnic- and gender-discrimination issues, but the company still overwhelmingly employs white men, especially in managerial positions. Facebook, like many other large tech firms, has touted efforts to reform hiring practices, but no company has yet been able to move the needle in any meaningful way.

Facebook still struggles with racial issues. In February, Zuck had to send a note to employees ordering them to stop crossing out the phrase "Black Lives Matter" on the walls at the social network's California headquarters.