Conservative Report on Facebook Provides No Information At All

Carsten Rehder/DPA via ZUMA

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Sen. Jon Kyl released his interim report today on whether Facebook is biased against conservatives. Ali Breland and Pema Levy describe it here, summing it up with, “Kyl’s report did not find any evidence of conservative bias at Facebook.”

OK, sure, but there has to be more than that. I mean, what did he find? So I went over and read it for myself. And the answer, almost literally, is that he found nothing. In fact, he didn’t even look. All he did was talk to a bunch of conservatives to find out what they thought Facebook might be doing to them. As a public service, I’ll provide this abridged version:

In January 2018, Facebook changed its content ranking algorithm to favor content that a given user’s friends and family comment on and share, as well as news from broadly trusted sources. Several interviewees believed that this change disproportionately decreased the reach of conservative news content….Facebook has made a concerted effort to de-prioritize clickbait and spam. Interviewees generally supported this goal, but found Facebook’s policies for doing so too opaque….Interviewees expressed significant concerns about Facebook’s efforts to combat what the company refers to as “false news.” In particular, interviewees pointed to examples of instances when some of the third-party fact-checkers utilized by Facebook at various times…have skewed to the ideological Left.

….Interviewees’ concerns stemmed both from the notion of having a “hate speech” policy in the first place and from unfair labeling of certain speech as “hate speech.”…Interviewees frequently expressed concern over Facebook’s perceived reliance on the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) and other left-leaning organizations to identify hate groups….Interviewees believed that other aspects of Facebook’s Community Standards also disproportionately affect conservative content.

….Some interviewees provided specific examples of instances in which they believed Facebook unfairly removed or downgraded content or Pages because they were conservative…Interviewees were concerned that conservative ad content is disproportionately removed or rejected as compared to liberal content and described a general lack of transparency with respect to why Facebook removes or rejects certain ads.

So that’s it. A bunch of conservatives repeated standard conservative talking points about how they’ve been treated unfairly but provided no evidence that they had actually been treated unfairly. Nor was it part of Kyl’s remit to check this out independently or to compare it to the way liberals and independents are treated. There is literally nothing here.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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