Facebook Is So 'Biased Against Conservatives' That Mark Zuckerberg Personally Agreed To Diminish The Reach Of 'Left-Leaning' Sites
from the the-narrative-is-garbage dept
As you well know if you’ve been reading this site for the last few years, there’s a garbage myth out there that the internet companies have an “anti-conservative” bias. First of all, even if this were true, there’s literally nothing wrong with that. Historically, media companies have long had political biases, going all the way back to the founding of the country (seriously you should read how crazy it was). This is literally part of the reason the 1st Amendment exists in the form that it does. The founders knew that allowing the government to crack down on biased media would create problems over time.
But, it’s also important to note that there remains no actual evidence for this so-called bias. There are certainly plenty of examples of the big companies kicking off or otherwise limiting trolls and assholes, but not evidence that it’s targeted towards any particular political viewpoint. Indeed, there have been trolls and assholes on both sides of the political spectrum removed, but it does appear that there may be slightly more (and slightly more prominent) trolls and assholes on the Trumpist side of the political scale. Even the one study people tout seems to simply show an anti-Nazi and anti-troll bias, but the study counted accounts like the “American Nazi Party” as “conservative”.
Meanwhile, other research has suggested that, if anything, Facebook’s moderation efforts have been biased in the other direction, favoring more Trump-friendly news organizations. Some people have blamed the fact that two of Facebook’s top policy execs are long-term, hardcore Republican operatives, including former FCC chairman Kevin Martin and former Scalia clerk Joel Kaplan. And Facebook execs will even admit (off the record, apparently) that the Trumpist content thrives on the platform and just does much better.
Of course, a new giant WSJ piece suggests another idea. Despite all the huffing and puffing by Republicans — or perhaps because of it — Facebook made the decision to diminish left-leaning sites in its algorithm. As you may recall, facing a ton of criticism about how news flowed on Facebook, Zuckerberg announced plans to diminish the overall importance of “news” and to focus on friends and family more. Of course, he’s made that promise more than once, as you might note from the dates on these two separate NY Times articles written a year and a half apart:
Anyhow, as Facebook engineers set about making that work (not very successfully by all accounts), it appears that there was a fear within Facebook that whiny snowflake Trumpists would go insane if any of their sites got demoted. And thus, Facebook engineers tweaked the algorithm to make sure it harmed left-leaning sites in a weird attempt to stave off criticism from Trumpists:
In late 2017, when Facebook tweaked its newsfeed algorithm to minimize the presence of political news, policy executives were concerned about the outsize impact of the changes on the right, including the Daily Wire, people familiar with the matter said. Engineers redesigned their intended changes so that left-leaning sites like Mother Jones were affected more than previously planned, the people said. Mr. Zuckerberg approved the plans. ?We did not make changes with the intent of impacting individual publishers,? a Facebook spokesman said.
Of course, it hasn’t worked in any sense of the word, because Republicans are still insisting that Facebook is biased against them — because they see that it’s working. Zuckerberg (pushed on by Kaplan and Martin) is bending over backwards to favor the Trumpists, and so they’re just going to keep playing victim to continue to pressure the company not to make any moves that hurt their presence on the site, while actually harming those at the other end of the political spectrum.
In the WSJ article, the Trump campaign more or less admits that this is their strategy, first admitting that they think that Zuck is a “pragmatist” who is trying to stay out of political fights, and then immediately flipping to whine about how the company treats Trump content:
The Trump campaign considers Mr. Zuckerberg more of a pragmatist than top executives at other major tech companies, according to a person familiar with the matter. But the campaign also has sharply criticized Facebook?s policies. ?Just like the rest of the Silicon Valley Mafia, Facebook erroneously believes it is the arbiter of truth and decider of elections,? said Samantha Zager, a Trump campaign spokeswoman, adding that tech companies increasingly censor Mr. Trump and conservatives.
Of course, running a giant company like this is going to involve lots of tradeoffs, and I’m sure that no news story can fully convey the reasons for various decisions made by the company. The most simplistic narratives are rarely true. But this absolutely includes the simplistic narrative that Facebook is somehow biased against “conservatives.”