Facebook has hired Jennifer Williams, a longtime Fox News producer, to work on its editorial video strategy. At Fox News, Williams spent years working in key roles on Fox & Friends and The Daily Briefing, flagship programs of a network that has long operated as a right-wing propaganda machine.
Williams will work on Facebook's official curated feed of news sources alongside journalists from publications including CNN, the New York Times, ABC News, Huff Post, and the BBC.
“Jennifer will work with other curators to build out video news components that may be added to the curated sections Facebook News in the future," Facebook said in a statement to Motherboard. "The stories that appear in Today’s Stories are selected by a diverse team of journalists hired by Facebook.”
According to her LinkedIn profile and news outlets who have covered the hiring, Williams worked in a variety of roles at Fox News from 1997 to 2019. She landed at Fox and Friends, where she became a producer in 2006 and a senior producer in 2007. From 2013 to 2019, she worked as an executive producer for The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, the AEHQ radio program, and finally The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, the titular host of which did a stint as former President George W. Bush’s press secretary.
Besides having a reputation as Donald Trump's favorite news show, Fox and Friends also has a long history of fueling America’s right-wing culture war with fake or exaggerated news. As MediaMatters pointed out, during Williams’ tenure the show ran a debunked report that Obama was “educated at a madrassa.” John Moody, then Fox Vice President for news, reportedly issued an editorial note reminding the newsroom "seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC" and went to the New York Times to lambast the hosts for "violat[ing] one of our general rules, which is [to] know what you are talking about."
While an executive producer at Carlson's show, the program pushed Ebola conspiracy theories and covered an imaginary war on Christmas. While Williams was executive producing Perino’s show, it let the FCC's Ajit Pai lie about net neutrality to sell its repeal and had Ben Shapiro on to brand the New York Times as an “activist organization” for its reporting on Donald Trump.
Really, standard Fox News stuff that we’re all familiar with by now and which has melted many boomer brains via long-term exposure.
Years later, Carlson defended her time at Fox and said, "We all have producers in the morning who set the agenda, and there are many times that you don't agree with what you're going to be saying that particular day."
In an interview with Judd Legum, a Facebook spokesperson apparently stressed that her time on Fox and Friends came before Trump was president, which apparently is supposed to count for something.
In October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a blog post revealing that Facebook would be shifting away from using algorithms to curate news and will rely instead on human curators to help build Facebook News' feature tab. What Zuckerberg did not mention is that news on the platform used to be curated by humans, but that initiative was scrapped in 2016 after conservatives accused the company of a bias against them. The decision turned its Trending Topics section into a breeding ground for fake news that flooded the platform.
Facebook has gone out of its way to cater to the far right over the years—for example, by enabling right-wing propaganda, filling key positions with Republican operatives, and now by hiring someone who contributed to today’s warped political landscape in a key editorial role. On top of that, Facebook has a long documented history of introducing changes and features which, at best, have hurt the media’s ability to check fake news and more often undermine everyone’s ability to make sense of the world on and off the platform.
Facebook keeps assuring us it takes its role in our media landscape and cultural commons seriously, but its actions rarely seem to match those honeyed words. In fact, it makes a lot of sense that Facebook would hire a Fox News producer who played a role in feeding baby boomers misleading stories, given that research has shown boomers share the most fake news on Facebook. Really, Facebook is just the Fox News of social networks.