|“We do not.” – Facebook Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert when asked directly if Facebook had a bias against conservatives.|
Last week during an interview with Yahoo News, a Facebook executive admitted what the rest of us have known all along: Facebook does not, in fact, have an anti-conservative bias. Media Matters’ Natalie Martinez has proved this with multiple studies. Facebook’s own Conservative Bias audit, which they hired Republican lobbyist (and occasional Senator) Jon Kyl to write, showed that the right had a lot of feelings about supposed bias but could not produce any evidence or data that it exists.
Facebook has now spent more than two years trying to appease Republicans on this non-issue to no avail. Trump and the GOP will keep whining about conservative bias that doesn’t exist because they feel it’s a winning strategy for them, because they know tech companies will continue to cave, and because it’s a way for them to show support for white supremacists and male supremacists when tech companies take down the latter content (without having to explicitly endorse their views.) The Trump administration is also seeking to regulate the social media companies against bias that doesn’t exist and has drafted an executive order compelling the “Federal Communications Commission to regulate how social media sites Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube moderate the content that users put on their platforms.”
This week Buzzfeed’s Claudia Koerner reports that Facebook took down a fact check of an anti-abortion video after four Republican Senators – Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Kevin Cramer, and Mike Braun – complained. The Senators sent a letter to Facebook “accusing the company of censorship and bias against conservatives. At issue were two videos published by anti-abortion group Live Action and its founder, Lila Rose, which were rated as inaccurate by an independent fact-checking group.”
Facebook took down factually correct information for purely political reasons. The squeaky wheel gets oiled and no one is better than being a squeaky wheel than Trump’s Republican party.
In the context of the 2020 elections, this is a huge problem. The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) has essentially shut down and unless Trump appoints more commissioners (highly unlikely) it will be unable to open investigations or enforce campaign violations this election cycle. With no government body to set and enforce digital ad policies, Facebook and the tech companies are left to set policies and resolve disputes on their own. If Facebook can be bullied into removing an accurate medical video for purely political reasons the Right will absolutely use this tactic with other types of political content and ads.
The lack of an organized outrage machine puts progressives at a strategic disadvantage and nowhere is that more clear than the conservative bias myth that will not die. We can’t fight disinformation and propaganda effectively without mounting our own offense to pressure tech companies. The good news is that unlike Trump and the GOP, progressives won’t have to make things up to have an argument to mobilize around.
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