The Patriot Post® · The Critical Political Effect of Facebook and Instagram

By Nate Jackson ·

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.