Facebook Publishes Removal Policies, but Bias Remains
It helps to have those guidelines public, but we'll still see data collection and suppression of speech.
Recently, the American people were treated to a dog and pony show where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hauled before Congress and grilled over two primary issues — Facebook’s handling of users’ data, and the user content bias shown by the world’s dominant social media platform.
In response, Facebook published its internal guidelines for how its 7,500 worldwide content reviewers determine what should be removed for violations of policies regarding “hate speech, violent threats, sexual exploitation and more.” Facebook also promised to review how data from its 2.2 billion users is accessed and used by third parties.
The data privacy issue distressed many Facebook users after the revelation that a company called Cambridge Analytica purchased personal information on 50 million people and used it to provide advice to Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 elections.
A couple of things should be noted about this revelation. First, the information was collected as a result of a personality quiz voluntarily downloaded by 270,000 users who agreed to allow the app to collect personal information on themselves and their friends. While those friends have a legitimate complaint regarding third-party use of their personal information, the reality is that this is the very basis of Facebook’s revenue model; namely, collecting user’s demographic information and personal preferences and selling it to marketers, who create targeted ads. Facebook is free to end users for a reason, and users should be aware that if you are not paying for the product, then you are the product.
Of course, any protests and hand-wringing from the Left here is entirely disingenuous. Barack Obama employed a nearly identical method of gathering personal information during in 2012. When users downloaded his Obama 2012 Facebook app, his campaign collected mountains of personal data on more than 190 million people, almost four times that of the Trump campaign.
And far from being described in dark and conspiratorial terms, the Leftmedia celebrated Obama’s mining of user data in advancing the progressive political agenda done without end users’ knowledge or permission. Time magazine positively glowed, declaring data-mining Facebook would “transform the way campaigns are conducted in the future.”
Nor was the Obama campaign shy about what they had done. Carol Davidsen, director of data integration and media analytics for Obama for America, bragged, “We ingested the entire U.S. social graph. … We would ask permission to basically scrape your profile, and also scrape your friends, basically anything that was available to scrape. We scraped it all.”
The other aspect of the congressional hearings was Facebook’s reputation for showing bias favoring progressive users/viewpoints and against conservative users/viewpoints.
When questioned, Zuckerberg blamed any discrepancies on innocent human error, acknowledging that accusations of bias are a “fair concern,” but promising that he endeavors to avoid “any bias in the work that we do.”
That is, of course, utter nonsense. Zuckerberg admitted an inherent liberal bias in Silicon Valley corporations, and independent studies confirmed an intentional leftist bias in how user content is displayed in the newsfeed.
Facebook jumped at the opportunity to use accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections to justify further alienation of conservative/Republican viewpoints. While Hillary claims a Russian troll farm cost her the election (among a hundred other things) by spending $46,000 on Facebook ads, the claim is ludicrous considering that is a drop in a very large bucket compared to the $81 million in ad buys by the Clinton and Trump campaigns.
In an effort to supposedly combat “fake news,” Facebook changed its newsfeed algorithm to prioritize allegedly trustworthy news sources. Yet the actual impact has been a significant increase in traffic to liberal/progressive sites and articles, and a significant decrease to conservative sites/articles. For example, following the change, the left-leaning New York Daily News saw a 24.18% increase in traffic, and the right-leaning New York Post saw an 11.44% decrease. Other conservative sites dropped as much as 55%. Meanwhile, liberal sites were either unaffected or saw an increase.
This should come as no surprise, considering Facebook’s head of news partnership is none other than former NBC and CNN anchor Campbell Brown. Rather than denying partisanship, Brown embraces it, announcing at a recent tech forum, “This is not us stepping back from news. … This is us changing our relationship with publishers. … It’s having a point of view, and it’s leaning into quality news. … We are, for the first time in the history of Facebook, taking a step to try to define what ‘quality news’ looks like and give that a boost.”
Of course, to progressives like Brown, “quality news” is that which advances a leftist worldview.
And while Facebook has announced an appeal process for post removals, the bias remains. The Diamond and Silk page (two Trump-supporting black women with 1.6M followers) was censored this month for being “unsafe to the community,” yet the Facebook pages of racist anti-Semites Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton remained active.
Facebook users should be aware of several things. One, Facebook exists to make money, and users are the product. Don’t expect privacy. Two, Facebook is a reflexively leftist partisan organization, using its influence to advance progressivism. Three, the First Amendment binds government infringement of free speech, but does not apply to corporations. (Non) Buyer beware.