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Why Will Breitbart Be Included in ‘Facebook News’?Why Will Breitbart Be Included in ‘Facebook News’?Mark Zuckerberg can’t be understood in terms of partisan politics. It’s all about growth.By Charlie WarzelMr. Warzel is an Opinion writer at large.Oct. 25, 2019The Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testifying before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesThis is your one article preview.Log in or create a free account to read more articles each month.With a presidential election looming, it seems everyone is trying to get inside Mark Zuckerberg’s head. Earlier this month, The Verge released leaked audio of the Facebook co-founder and chief executive calling Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plans to break up Facebook an “existential” threat to the company. His comments kicked off a monthlong debate over Facebook’s outsize influence in politics, its role in preserving or undermining free speech, lying in political ads and antitrust in the internet age. Undergirding each of these thorny issues is an implied question: What does Mr. Zuckerberg — the man at the center of all this — actually believe in?Mr. Zuckerberg seems aware of our collective concerns. Since his comments leaked, he has been on a transparency offensive, conducting an open employee town hall meeting, giving a talk about free speech at Georgetown University, sitting down for multiple high-profile media interviews, writing a Times Op-Ed and subjecting himself to hours of congressional grilling. His public rationale for all the face time might be found in a recent comment to the “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt: “Part of growing up for me has just been realizing that it is more important to be understood than it is to be liked.”One could argue that Facebook’s recent transparency bonanza accomplished none of that. Senator Warren and Joe Biden have picked public fights with Mr. Zuckerberg online and in nationally televised debates. His speech, which invoked civil rights leaders, prompted justified criticism from Bernice King, a daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His congressional testimony produced a steady stream of viral clips of a visibly uncomfortable Mr. Zuckerberg getting hammered by members of Congress. Meanwhile, leaks to reporters have revealed Mr. Zuckerberg’s private political conversations, which include recommending candidates for technical positions in Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign and off-the-record dinners with conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson.It’s into this environment that, on Friday, Facebook announced Facebook News — a curated section on the social network that will partner with news publishers. Facebook will pay for content from dozens of partners, including The Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider and others.But any hope that the takeaway from the announcement would be “Facebook saves the news” was quashed by the inclusion of one unpaid partner: the far-right online outlet Breitbart News. The site, formerly run by Steve Bannon, is known for its unabashed pro-Trump activism and early embrace of toxic online politicking and trolling. Breitbart has published articles with tags like “Black Crime” and was once described by Mr. Bannon as a platform for the alt-right. A 2017 BuzzFeed News exposé detailed, via obtained emails, how Breitbart actively courted the right-wing online fringes and helped to launder white nationalist talking points into the mainstream. Since 2016, more than 4,000 advertisers have severed ties with Breitbart over its ideological bent, according to the Sleeping Giants founder Matt Rivitz.For some, Breitbart’s inclusion among its select news publishers is proof of Mr. Zuckerberg’s, and his company’s, political biases. Judd Legum, who publishes the newsletter Popular Information, reported recently that three Republican employees in the company “call the shots at Facebook” and that the social network “has repeatedly taken actions that benefit Republicans and the right wing.” Progressive critics have suggested that Mr. Zuckerberg is a Republican and that his company’s ethos leans to the right as well. “Facebook is a conservative outlet,” Adam Serwer, a journalist at The Atlantic, tweeted last week. “When conservatives criticize, they solemnly and apologetically promise to do better. When liberals criticize, they tell them to shut up.” Facebook’s decision to include Breitbart among its select publishers is clarifying, though perhaps not in the way many critics have suggested. It’s not an indicator of secret political bias; instead, it’s a small window into how Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook see the world. Here, the realms of government and media aren’t levers to achieve some ideological goal — they’re mere petri dishes in which to grow the Facebook organism. And when it comes to Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg’s end game, nothing is more important than growth.Growth has always been the end game for Facebook. The company’s onetime internal credo, “Move fast and break things,” was about a need for rapid, sometimes reckless innovation in service of adding more users, market share and ad dollars, while its early mission statement, “Make the world more open and connected,” was a friendly way of expressing a desire for exponential growth. The company’s new mission statement, “Bring the world closer together,” is a friendlier way of saying the same thing — after all, you can’t bring people closer together if you don’t acquire them as active users first. Growth at any cost is a familiar mantra inside Facebook as well, as an internal memo surfaced last year by BuzzFeed News revealed; subsequent investigations by The Times detailed a company “bent on growth.”But the costs of this growth — election interference, privacy violations — are passed on to users, not absorbed by Facebook, which takes a reputational hit but generally maintains, if not increases, market share and value. The real threat to Facebook isn’t bad P.R., it’s alienating its user base.[As technology advances, will it continue to blur the lines between public and private? Sign up for Charlie Warzel’s limited-run newsletter to explore what’s at stake and what you can do about it.]Through this lens, it makes perfect sense that Facebook should want to publicly court conservative audiences that seethe at what they perceive as Facebook’s liberal bias. And while the outcomes of Facebook’s decisions have serious political consequences, Mr. Zuckerberg and his fellow decision makers at the company view their decision to choose both publishers and off-the-record dining partners in terms of user acquisition strategy. According to Bloomberg, publications for Facebook News were chosen after surveying users and studying news consumption habits on the platform. Breitbart’s inclusion suggests that it checked enough of Facebook’s boxes, despite its toxicity. The same goes for dinner with Mr. Carlson, who launders white nationalist talking points and speaks to a large audience on cable TV every weeknight. The pattern is clear: If an entity or individual achieves a certain level of scale and influence, then the company will engage earnestly.It’s telling that Facebook would look to Mr. Carlson or Breitbart and interpret a large audience and influence as a stand-in for authority and credibility. What else should we really expect from a company that refuses to meaningfully distinguish those who share hyperpartisan vitriol from those joyfully sharing baby pictures? When scale is the prism through which you view the world, that world becomes flat. When everyone becomes a number, everyone starts to look the same.Because Mr. Zuckerberg is one of the most powerful people in politics right now — and because the stakes feel so high — there’s a desire to assign him a political label. That’s understandable but largely beside the point. Mark Zuckerberg may very well have political beliefs. And his every action does have political consequences. But he is not a Republican or a Democrat in how he wields his power. Mr. Zuckerberg’s only real political affiliation is that he’s the chief executive of Facebook. His only consistent ideology is that connectivity is a universal good. And his only consistent goal is advancing that ideology, at nearly any cost.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.