May 14, 2024

The Critical Political Effect of Facebook and Instagram

Researchers say the effects aren’t significant, but the censors obviously think differently.

Do Facebook and Instagram change people’s views about politics or elections? Not much, according to a study published Monday. But they also do, according to that same study.

Researchers at Stanford University, Meta (Facebook’s parent company), and other institutions conducted the study. “We study the effect of Facebook and Instagram access on political beliefs, attitudes, and behavior by randomizing a subset of 19,857 Facebook users and 15,585 Instagram users to deactivate their accounts for 6 wk before the 2020 U.S. election,” says the abstract. They found that four basic things resulted from deactivation: It “reduced an index of political participation,” it “had no significant effect on an index of knowledge,” it “may have reduced self-reported net votes for Trump,” and its effects “on affective and issue polarization, perceived legitimacy of the election, candidate favorability, and voter turnout were all precisely estimated and close to zero.”

So, if social media doesn’t really sway people, why is Facebook arguably the worst offender when it comes to censoring and suppressing unapproved views?

There are two reasons closely tied together. First, researchers said deactivation was a double-edged sword because it “reduced knowledge of general news while possibly also decreasing belief in misinformation circulating online.” That supposed “misinformation” was, of course, primarily from the Right — at least based on the examples researchers provided, namely (legitimate) “concerns about fraud and vote-by-mail.”

NBC News summarizes the second reason:

Researchers did find a small, unverified impact of Facebook use favoring Donald Trump, in which people who deactivated from Facebook were slightly more likely than others to vote for Joe Biden — the equivalent of 1.3% of Trump voters’ swinging to Biden. That could be because the Trump campaign was using Facebook more effectively or possibly because of other factors, the researchers wrote. Either way, they wrote, the difference “applies to the specific population that selected into our experiment” and “cannot be extrapolated to the broader population without strong assumptions.”

In other words, they might claim the study doesn’t undermine censorship but rather bolsters the case for it because the stuff they’re censoring is bad, and you shouldn’t believe it. Nor should you vote for the candidate associated with it.

Therefore, don’t be surprised if Facebook uses this study to justify more censorship. Meta treated it as predictable and unsurprising, saying in a statement, “These findings are consistent with previous publications in this study in showing little impact on key political attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.”

Translation: We’re not interfering with people’s beliefs; we’re just protecting them from misinformation that might lead them to vote for the Bad Orange Man.

There’s another thread to this story, however, and an example of it comes courtesy of another story from NBC. The headline: “Social media users are collectively blocking celebrities and influencers who have been silent on Gaza.”

It’s the digital version of the obnoxious campus protests and traffic blocking. Worse, one user called it a “digital guillotine.” Pro-Hamas goons insist that celebrities “speak out” about what NBC matter-of-factly calls “the ongoing humanitarian atrocities in Gaza.” (Fact-check: Hamas uses civilians as human shields, and those civilians elected and still overwhelmingly support Hamas. Oh, and Hamas lies about civilian casualties, which the UN sort of acknowledged by halving its estimate.)

But I digress. The overall point isn’t even about Israel and Gaza. It’s that many social media users employ censorship themselves. Too many people have insulated themselves in ideological or partisan echo chambers and refuse to listen to anyone on the other side. Facebook and other platforms encourage that behavior because it boosts engagement and ad revenue.

It seems that the better solution would be for Americans to engage with their fellow Americans in discussion, not rage-filled name-calling and cancellations. That would actually work to change people’s views of politics and elections in a good direction.

P.S. I permanently deleted my personal Facebook page in 2020 when it became clear how severely Facebook was throttling Patriot Post content for our 750,000 followers and others as part of an obvious larger effort to help Joe Biden. It was a personal boycott, if you will, and I haven’t missed it a bit.

But you can follow me on X/Twitter.

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

The Patriot Post and Patriot Foundation Trust, in keeping with our Military Mission of Service to our uniformed service members and veterans, are proud to support and promote the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, both the Honoring the Sacrifice and Warrior Freedom Service Dogs aiding wounded veterans, the National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, the Folds of Honor outreach, and Officer Christian Fellowship, the Air University Foundation, and Naval War College Foundation, and the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:13)


“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

Please join us in prayer for our nation — that righteous leaders would rise and prevail and we would be united as Americans. Pray also for the protection of our Military Patriots, Veterans, First Responders, and their families. Please lift up your Patriot team and our mission to support and defend our Republic's Founding Principle of Liberty, that the fires of freedom would be ignited in the hearts and minds of our countrymen.

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2024 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.