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.

Filed Under: anti-conservative bias, audit, jon kyl, nick clegg
Companies: facebook


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 5:03am

    '... how many zeroes is that?'

    So they ended up paying a law firm in order to write up a 'report' that tells them what they and everyone else already knew, that some conservatives worry that there might be anti-conservative bias on the platform. Sounds like they should have sprung for the deluxe report, wherein the investigators could have told them what color the sky is and whether or not water is wet.

    I can only hope that they ended up paying dearly for that useless pile of documents, as stupidity that severe really should be painful.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pref Anon, 22 Aug 2019 @ 6:33am

      Re: '... how many zeroes is that?'

      You don't pay a retired senator for the report itself, you pay to make sure complaints don't turn into legislation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 12:05pm

      Re: '... how many zeroes is that?'

      Lets ask something..
      How does a Big Lawyer group make business..
      By confusing the facts tot he point that no one knows Truth from fact from Lies.
      What would you expect from them? the Fog of Truth? A Stand out Lie? They are the middle ground of Hiding everything so no one can decide.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    hij (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 5:55am

    Putting money where the mouths are

    It may help in one way, though. By giving money away to conservatives it will create a conflict of interest. As more money goes into their pockets these same conservatives now have a reason to stay away from the fake conspiracy talk somewhat. At least a little bit, since having some of the controversy blowing around seems to benefit these folks.

    For all the good reasons not to use Facebook, some folks seem to go to a lot of trouble to make up false reasons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 22 Aug 2019 @ 6:35am

    Maybe Facebook should have actual "anti-conservative" bias weeks.
    Say 1st full week of the month they actually suspend all conservative accounts.
    Then drop these suspensions at the end of that week (leaving in the actual TOS suspensions).

    That way they can compare/contrast the differences...but I am assuming they can learn.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 7:04am

    but...

    But that AC posted those YouTube videos that say this audit totally proves Facebook is discriminating against conservatives. I'm so confused. I guess I'll have to wait for Zof to come in and clear it up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 7:34am

    Conservatives don't want fairness, they want platforms to crack down and make left wing voices harder to find. They won't be happy until the internet resembles AM talk radio.

    It's the projection they do oh so well, everything they accuse 'the left' of, is the things they either want to do to their enemies, or are actively doing behind the scenes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nerd bert (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 7:44am

    Instead, it releases this garbage.

    Why are you surprised? Isn't that SOP for Facebook?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 8:20am

      Re:

      ...what part of this article made up entirely of Mike saying that he is not surprised and this is SOP for Facebook led you to believe that he is surprised and does not think this is SOP for Facebook?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2019 @ 7:47am

    Bending over backwards? At this point, Facebook has bent over backwards and let conservatives use the spiked dildo without lube. The conservative response will then be an angry diatribe on why Facebook didn't also allow a castration without question.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2019 @ 8:19am

    I find it laughable that this leftist rag keeps denying there's no conservative BIAS when it's as clear as day.

    It's like Code Pink protesting Bush for dropping bombs. Where were they when OBAMA dropped a bunch more and killing innocent people? Crickets. Yet No BIAS their ether. No nothing to look at here, they were treated equally. It's beyond laughable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 8:24am

      Re:

      So, do you guys all have the same mental condition that stops you from behaving about kindergarten level and prevents you reading context, or do you just use the same dealer?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2019 @ 8:43am

      Re:

      keeps denying there's no conservative BIAS when it's as clear as day.

      Thank you for admitting that it's clear as day that there's no conservative bias.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TFG, 22 Aug 2019 @ 9:14am

      Re:

      If it's clear as day, how about you help out those floundering in the night and show some evidence? You could be a beacon of truth! Just need some actual verifiable truth.

      I'll wait.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 12:03pm

      there's no conservative BIAS when it's as clear as day

      If the bias is “as clear as day”, then surely you can point to examples of…

      • conservatives being punished for expressing ideas and opinions and values linked specifically to conservatism

      • for saying “I’m conservative”

      • for saying things that would force a platform to punish anyone but doesn’t result in a punishment for liberals/progressives/leftists

      …and any relevant statistics that prove your claim.

      And a brief reminder: Anecdotal experience is not empirical evidence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2019 @ 12:43pm

      Re: the only common denominator to all your problems is you

      Let me guess bro. You have “no idea” why you keep getting banned from various social media platforms.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2019 @ 12:58pm

      Re:

      I find it laughable that this leftist rag keeps denying there's no conservative BIAS when it's as clear as day.

      Do you also find it laughable that your complaining gets flagged by the community every time you post your nonsense? Because that's probably what's happening on social media.

      People are tired of you whiny little complainers bitching and moaning about constantly being the victim of something.

      Put on your big boy pants and take a Midol already.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 2:44pm

      Re:

      First, what’s “clear as day” to you may be clear as mud to others. Also, not everyone has seen the same evidence you have. If you have any clear evidence of anti-conservative bias, please share it with the rest of us. We’re all waiting patiently.

      Second, of all the articles to criticize for failing to see this “obvious” anti-conservative bias, this is a strange choice. This is basically the one article that doesn't express particularly clear skepticism of the idea, and either way, it plays no role in what the point of the article is.

      In case you haven’t read it, it says that Facebook’s “audit”, rather than drawing any conclusions or providing any new evidence, merely lists evidence we already knew: there are conservatives complaining that Facebook has or may have an anti-conservative bias that allegedly plays a role in various decisions like who gets banned. As noted in the article, this complete lack of… anything substantial upsets conservatives hoping for an admission of guilt, liberals hoping for a denial, and others wanting some additional clarity on the subject one way or the other. If you consider it leftist to acknowledge that not everyone agrees on whether or not Facebook’s decisions actually show an anti-conservative bias, and that this result satisfies no one and upsets pretty much everyone following the subject, then frankly you have no idea what “leftist” actually means.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        bhull242 (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 2:47pm

        Re: Re:

        And for the record, a lot of people, myself included, don’t accept anecdotes as sufficient evidence (though that’s more than what you’re currently giving us, which is no evidence).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 8:22am

    Again, context

    "Yes, the "conservatives" interviewed were "concerned" that hate speech designations might disproportionately impact them. Duh. But did it?"

    More importantly - if it did, then why? If there's more hate speech on the right, and more on the right are impacted as a result, that's exactly the right outcome. It's only a problem if hate speech aligned elsewhere politically is ignored, or if non-hate speech is falsely labelled.

    It may well be that more people on the right are being treated as hateful, but if that treatment is justified, it's not Facebook that's the problem. This is the point that keep getting missed by the people whining - yes, it's unfortunate that your shop gets raided more than anybody else's after a burglary is reported, but that's where all the stolen goods are...

    "this was announced in a meaningless way by former UK politician Nick Clegg, who is now Facebook's VP of Global Affairs and Communications"

    Oh, that explains some of it. You're not going to get anything with teeth if it's led by the guy who sold his party's principles out to the Tories, giving them a "coalition" where they seemed to pay no heed to anything the Lib Dems did once they go the seat, and with the installment of Cameron above him led inevitably to the current mess we're in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Edmund_D (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 8:51am

    About Google etal voter manipulation, Per Robert Epstein
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90y3MmuBZaU
    13:08
    Talks about how FB can influence the vote.

    Was going to tell you about vaxxes and their link to autism, but i'll save it.
    For a medical site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2019 @ 9:00am

      Re:

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Chip, 22 Aug 2019 @ 9:04am

      Re:

      Oh I "get" it.

      Your a "joke" Account.

      Every Nation eats the Paint CHIPS it DESERVES!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 9:37am

      Re:

      That study is garbage.

      https://slate.com/technology/2019/08/robert-epstein-google-bias-conservative-bogus-trump.ht ml

      But, funny how you suck up anything you might try to grasp at to prove a point. You're really deep in the cluelessness Ed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 22 Aug 2019 @ 9:54am

      Re:

      Odd that not only is there no studies showing a link between vaccines and autism, there are studies that show no links between no-vaxxers and autism.

      Interesting that studies show no link from either way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2019 @ 1:00pm

      Re:

      Epstein's white paper was not peer-reviewed and was challenged by other researchers. Among the criticisms was that a small sample size was used to extrapolate conclusions about a population of millions and the lack of disclosure of the underlying methodology.

      Perhaps Google should ask to see his algorithms. Just to make sure he's not biased, you know?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 3:06pm

      Re:

      As mentioned by Mike and an AC, that study is full of problems, including lack of peer review, a small sample size, and failure to disclose the underlying methodology. The first means that no one had a chance to check it before it was publicized, the second means that it a) isn’t likely to be representative and b) has a very large margin for error, rendering it meaningless, and the third means that there’s no way of knowing if the sampling methodology used to select what is tested was biased among other things.

      Plus, even if it shows how FB can influence the vote, it offers no evidence that it does or in what manner. At best, it may show that Google has anti-conservative bias, and that similar methods could lead to Facebook affecting the kind of information users receive in a biased manner. Given that this article is about the specific allegations that FB has an anti-conservative bias, that isn’t enough to prove those particular allegations, making it pretty irrelevant.

      As for the thing about vaccines and autism, aside from the fact that that is a PRATT based on one study hat was discredited and retracted years ago due to numerous ethical issues, problematic methodology, small sample size, and clear bias and conflicts of interest on the part of the researcher, who has since lost his medical license, you’re right that it’s better to save that for a medical site, or at the very least, an article that is actually about vaccines and/or autism. This leads to a couple of important questions: why the hell would you even bring that up in the comments section on an article about anti-conservative bias on Facebook, and why bring it up at all if you have no intention of saying anything about it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bobob, 22 Aug 2019 @ 10:42am

    It did do something useful... for facebook. If called to testify, they have a report that can address any question asked. We found no evidence of ___ in that report (fill in the blank). Just because it was an "investigation" doesn't mean that it was intended to investigate anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Todd, 23 Aug 2019 @ 5:43am

    So let me get this straight: This tiny conservative audit was absolutely terrible and useless, but the entire Russia conspiracy Mueller investigation costing millions of dollars and consuming the nation for more than a year, while objectively producing nothing of value gets a pass. Check.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 23 Aug 2019 @ 6:32am

      Re:

      "costing millions of dollars and consuming the nation for more than a year, while objectively producing nothing of value"

      You might want to get your head out of whatever echo chamber you usually frequent and check some objective facts. The investigation produced multiple convictions, and thanks to the Manafort evidence actually turned a profit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DNY, 23 Aug 2019 @ 5:50am

    Duh? Really?

    In view of the increasing prevalence of antisemitism on the left both in the US and the UK, adding "Duh," after the sentence "Yes, the "conservatives" interviewed were "concerned" that hate speech designations might disproportionately impact them," seems to be an expression of anti-conservative bias here at Techdirt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 23 Aug 2019 @ 12:25pm

      Re: Duh? Really?

      In view of the increasing prevalence of antisemitism on the left

      Citation for that?

      adding "Duh," after the sentence "Yes, the "conservatives" interviewed were "concerned" that hate speech designations might disproportionately impact them," seems to be an expression of anti-conservative bias here at Techdirt.

      "Duh" meaning "anyone paying any attention at all knows conservatives have been complaining about anti-conservative bias". So if it's biased, it's against ignorance.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 23 Aug 2019 @ 6:23am

    The very concept of hate speech laws is flawed. They're nothing more than a violation of basic human rights.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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