Facebook is trying super hard to refute claims of “anti-conservative bias,” reportedly to the extent that it’s undermining the company’s own efforts to promote truth over lies.
A new investigation from the Washington Post shows how Facebook avoids penalizing certain high-profile conservative users when they spread misinformation. Facebook employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity say that these accounts skirt consequences for breaking rules because Facebook is trying to avoid disciplining conservatives who would raise hell about “anti-conservative bias.”
Two such users, who receive that special treatment? Donald Trump, Jr., and the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action, among many others.
Facebook’s rules state that accounts labeled as “repeat offenders” for spreading misinformation shall receive consequences like the inability to advertise, reduced distribution, and even account bans. However, the Post’s analysis found that the PAC does not appear to have received such penalties, despite sharing two pieces of content labeled as false within 90 days (which qualifies them for the “repeat offender” label).
As for Trump, Jr., Facebook removed a false label from the president’s eldest son’s Instagram account that would have been a second strike, thus making him a repeat offender. It did so specifically to avoid mini-Trump complaining about censorship, according to the sources. Facebook did not deny the latter allegation, saying “we will not apply a penalty in rare cases when the rating was not appropriate or warranted under the program’s established guidelines.”
While some conservative pages do face consequences, the Post found similar hands-off treatment for a number of other conservative pages, including the Gateway Pundit.
Facebook declined to comment to the paper on any specific pages and enforcement actions (or lack thereof). A spokesperson said, “We don’t disclose the details of these thresholds publicly for very real concerns about gaming the system, but we do send notifications to groups, pages, accounts, and advertisers when they’ve received a strike and are receiving the reduced distribution, and when they are a repeat offender.”
There is no reputable scientific data establishing that there is any “anti-conservative bias” in the content moderation efforts and distribution on social media. Instead, the claims are the latest iteration of a long-standing Republican tactic: Claiming “bias” in order to “game the refs” into making decisions that go conservatives’ way, specifically to avoid such claims of bias.
In the case of Facebook, gaming the refs very much appears to be working.