By Deepa Seetharaman and Natalie Andrews
Facebook Inc. will train employees to identify and check their political leanings, the company's latest step to quell concerns over the treatment of conservative viewpoints on the social network.
Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told a Washington, D.C., audience Wednesday that Facebook plans to add a section on "political bias," to its class on "managing bias." All Facebook executives and many employees have taken the class, which focuses on identifying and neutralizing racial, age, gender and other types of bias, Ms. Sandberg said during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute.
The move follows a maelstrom touched off by a report last month from the tech blog Gizmodo that said curators of Facebook's "trending topics" feature suppressed news about conservative events and from conservative sources. The feature is found to the right of Facebook's news feed on personal computers and can be found on the mobile app by tapping the search bar.
The report prompted Facebook to conduct an internal investigation, in which it said it found no evidence of "systemic political bias." Even so, Facebook said it would revamp how the feature works to minimize the effect of individual bias.
The company also invited 16 top conservatives, including AEI President Arthur Brooks, to its Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters to discuss the issue with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.
Wednesday, Ms. Sandberg reiterated that Facebook wants to be a platform for an open exchange of ideas. She noted that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has more Facebook fans than presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders combined.
"It is a political time and we're proud of the role we play in elections, not just here but around the world," Ms. Sandberg said in her onstage discussion with Mr. Brooks. "The vision of Facebook was to enable individuals to connect, but to connect not just to their friends and family, but also to the people who are representing them and who they want to represent them."
Write to Deepa Seetharaman at Deepa.Seetharaman@wsj.com and Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com