Facebook's anti-conservative bias audit sparks backlash
A Facebook audit which found the company needs to do "significant work" to satisfy the concerns of conservatives has prompted a backlash from conservatives and liberals alike.
The Menlo Park, Calif. firm conducted the year-long audit in consultation with 133 conservative organizations or politicians and was led by former Republican Sen. Jon Kyl. It found that interviewees had concerns about Facebook's content distribution and algorithms, content policies and enforcement, ad policies and ad enforcement, and workplace viewpoint diversity.
"Facebook insists that it is committed to safety, equal treatment and building community. ...This may involve some tradeoffs between safety and free expression, we do not believe there is any need to cut off robust diversity of thought," Kyl stated in the report. "Indeed, conservatives consistently expressed the view that, while platform users should be protected from harm, no one has a right to not feel offended or to be immune from criticism."
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The report detailed a range of recently announced policy changes meant to address some of these concerns, but the audit itself was blasted by Republicans and liberal activists.
"Merely asking somebody to listen to conservatives' concerns isn't an 'audit,' it's a smokescreen disguised as a solution," said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., in a statement shared with Fox News. "Facebook should conduct an actual audit by giving a trusted third party access to its algorithm, its key documents, and its content moderation protocols. Then Facebook should release the results to the public."
Brent Bozell, head of Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, told Fox News via email: “Facebook refuses to publicly acknowledge that conservatives have been disproportionately affected by their content policies. We have waited over a year for Facebook to properly address the long list of issues raised by the conservative movement, but have received nothing of substance in return. The audit released today by former Senator Kyl is shamefully more of the same."
Liberal groups such as Color of Change and Muslim Advocates, which urged the tech giant to conduct a civil rights audit in recent years, slammed Facebook for even agreeing to probe potential anti-conservative bias.
"When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed to a 'bias' study last year, he conceded to Joel Kaplan's political views and the right-wing's playbook of victimhood, undermining the company's stated commitment to protect civil rights on the platform," said Color of Change President Rashad Robinson in a statement emailed to Fox News. "Claims of anti-conservative bias are simply an attempt to distract users and the media from the conservative movement's attacks against black communities and other marginalized groups."
Muslim Advocates called the allegation of anti-conservative bias an "unsubstantiated cynical ploy" by the Trump administration and its allies.
"Facebook's anti-conservative bias report is a smokescreen masking the reality that the company continues to allow violent, white nationalist content to thrive on its platforms," said Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates Special Counsel for Anti-Muslim Bigotry, in a statement.
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Both organizations also hit Facebook for Kyl's own history of what they characterize as anti-Muslim views.
Nick Clegg, Facebook's VP of Global Affairs and Communications, said the audit is ongoing and that the tech giant will inevitably make mistakes that will offend some of its users.
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"But even if we could craft [our policies] in a way that pleased all sides, when dealing with such nuanced issues, involving policies that apply to billions of posts, we will inevitably make some bad calls, some of which may appear to strike harder at conservatives," Clegg, the United Kingdom's former deputy prime minister, said in a blog post.
The audit discussed a range of policies and areas where Facebook could make changes, including providing more transparency in its News Feed ranking, sharing more details about how its Community Standards evolve, building an oversight board for content decisions and boosting its appeals process for content that's been removed from the platform.