Monday, May 9, 2016

Facebook has been accused of anti-conservative political bias.

Gizmodo/Jim Cooke.

Facebook, the massively popular social media site, has been accused of suppressing conservative news on the site and promoting other stories. Gizmodo. According to former workers, conservative stories were suppressed on the websites "trending stories" feature. Many times when a story trended and originated from a conservative outlet, like Breitbart or the Drudge Report, it was replaced with source that was less right wing. The list of stories suppressed from the trending stories feed included stories about former IRS official Lois Lerner, Scott Walker, anything from the Drudge Report, Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL, and Steven Crowder, a conservative pundit. Facebook has also been accused of injecting stories in the the trending stories section which would not have trended on their own. In some cases the stories were politically neutral, such as the Charlie Hebdo attack or the loss of Maylasia airlines flight 370. However, the politically far left Black Lives Matter group was a promoted story as well. Stories about Facebook itself were suppressed as well. It is unclear if the website is still continuing to suppress conservative stories.  

My Comment:
A quick note on the source of this story. Normally I would never link to a website in the Gawker network. I'm opposed to the company and I want them to go out of business. On the other hand, even I have to admit that this report is high quality reporting. I could have used a separate source, but I thought getting it from the outlet that came up with the story was justified this time. If the Gawker news network focused on news like this instead of the tabloid crap they have been focusing on, I would no longer have a problem with the company. By linking to this story, perhaps they will be encouraged to have better standards. Regardless, whatever small amount of traffic they would get from this post is basically inconsequential. 

I have a real problem with what Facebook is accused of doing here. By not covering certain news stories they are affecting millions of people. Not only are they stopping people from potentially seeing things that are important, they are actively hurting conservative news outlets. If a place like Breitbart is suppressed, they are losing money they would have made from ads. Depending on how big the story, redirecting a story from somewhere like Breitbart to somewhere like CNN could cost the first news network thousands of dollars. 

The suppression of stories is disturbing as well. Some of the stories they were talking about, like the IRS scandal, are huge problems that already do not get enough coverage. This has a huge impact because if it isn't trending on Facebook it makes it seem the idea that the story isn't a big deal. It could also reduce outrage and reaction to a story as fewer people are exposed to it. Given how the IRS story has largely faded into the background to the point that it has hardly come up at all during the presidential election, I fear that this suppression may have worked. 

However, what I found most disturbing was the injection of liberal stories. Especially Black Lives Matter. I consider BLM to be dangerous and misguided at best, and I don't like the fact that Facebook made it trend. This made the movement look way more credible and popular then it actually was. Who knows, if Facebook hadn't done this perhaps BLM would have sputtered out a long time ago. Given that BLM is very far to the left, it shows a favoritism of radical leftist ideas compared to even mainstream conservative stories, like the IRS scandal. 

This is a key example of a major social network trying to push leftist ideas on the general public. And it's not just Facebook either. Twitter has also been accused of bias against conservative. The most recent example of this that I am aware of is the de-verification of conservative pundit Milo Yiannopoulos. Milo is a noted anti-feminist and a throne in the side of liberals in the tech world, so his de-listing seemed like an obvious case of retribution. And he is just one example of many conservatives banned or suppressed on the site. 

Given the obvious bias found at both Facebook and Twitter, there could be an impact on the presidential election. Right now both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are huge in part due to social media. Trump especially has mastered social media and I am not sure he would be the presumptive nominee if it wasn't for Facebook and Twitter. His social media presence is a huge advantage he has over Hillary Clinton. I am not sure if Facebook and Twitter censored his posts that he would lose but they could certainly hurt his campaign. That would backfire but other manipulation could be more subtle. If Facebook is still censoring Breitbart for example, they would be censoring one of the only pro-Trump news outlets out there. I don't know if either website is doing so at this moment, but it would be trivial for either to start. 

The real question is if the suppression is still going on. Honestly, I don't really watch the trending stories on Facebook because half the time it shows me video game stories. I like video games but I hate video game media and almost never click on the links. I have noticed that my conservative friends stories and posts still show up regularly. I have also posted things from this blog on facebook and given the number of views I have gotten, I can say that it doesn't appear that my posts have been suppressed in any way. Hell, even the ads I get are conservative in nature. 

It makes me wonder if the cancer wasn't just contained to the team in charge of the trending stories feature. It's clear that they were doing bad things, but it isn't clear that Facebook was doing so outside of that feature. Either way though I don't have a lot of trust on Facebook. At the very least though, they aren't suppressing this story on the Facebook trends so perhaps they are trying to make amends. Or at the very least they know they are under suspicion so they are keeping their nose clean for the time being. 

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