Facebook's Weird Pointless Auditless Audit Of Political Bias On Its Platform
from the but-why? dept
Facebook has continued to do the most Facebooky of Facebook things. Faced with almost entirely baseless claims of “anti-conservative bias” in how it moderates content, Facebook claimed to be doing something useful: bringing in a big outside law firm with big name partners (lead by former Republican Senator Jon Kyl) to analyze those claims. In response, they published… a whole lot of nothing. Kyl released an 8 page report that nearly anyone could have written (at much lower hourly rates, I’m sure). In it, it details areas that 133 different conservative users expressed concerns about how Facebook’s platform operates.
But the report does literally nothing to say (or better yet, show) whether or not those concerns are valid. It just lists them out. Yes, the “conservatives” interviewed were “concerned” that hate speech designations might disproportionately impact them. Duh. But did it? The report doesn’t say. Even more importantly, did such designations lead to disparate treatment for analogous behavior? Again, the report fails to say. it just lists out what “concerns” were raised. Which is about as totally fucking useless as you can imagine. In short, it’s Facebook’s standard operating procedure.
And, of course, this was announced in a meaningless way by former UK politician Nick Clegg, who is now Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs and Communications. Seriously, read this blog post and tell me what useful information you can glean from it. It’s nothing. It’s nine paragraphs of “if we’re doing something biased, we’ll try to fix it, but we’re still studying if we are.” This is the weakest sauce from a company that only seems to know how to make weak sauce.
Not surprisingly, no one’s happy about it. Conservatives hate it because it doesn’t say that Facebook is biased against them. Liberals are annoyed because it doesn’t say that the claims of bias are nonsense. That’s why the whole thing is not just useless, but literally counterproductive. By simply stating the concerns, but making no effort to say whether or not they’re accurate, this is like the worst kind of “view from nowhere” reporting. He says this. She says that. Which one is right? Who can tell?
Facebook is bending so far over backwards not to upset either side of the traditional political aisle that it’s pissing off everyone. Just suck it up, do a real study, and show what the results actually say. Chances are they’ll show absolutely no evidence of legitimate “anti-conservative bias,” because to date, no credible studies have found any such evidence. But if the study did find something that would be useful to know. Instead, it releases this garbage.