Last Updated on August 21, 2019
In a report released Tuesday, Facebook unveils findings suggesting they are ideologically censoring conservative thought through new enforcement policies created over the last few years, and use corporate jargon to avoid doing anything to stop.
The report, titled Covington Interim Report, prepared by former senator and current lobbyist Jon Kyl, identifies several key issues faced by conservative Facebook users, including abuse of the term “hate speech”, algorithmic manipulation of the news feed, use of radical left wing fact checking organizations to suppress conservative websites, and ad policies that exclude pro-life messages.
Facebook then explains they have already remedied such issues, and conservatives have nothing to worry about.
In preparing the report, the organization claims it conducted a series of interviews using a “broad definition” of the word “conservative”, one that includes “political conservatives, people of orthodox religious views, libertarians,pro-lifers, traditionalists, Republicans,” and, almost ironically, “free speech advocates.”
After conducting the interviews, the organization identified key areas of concern to conservatives on the platform.
These include algorithmic manipulation of the news feed, abusing claims of click bait and spam, abuse of fact-checking and claims of “false news”, overly broad “hate speech designations”, itchy trigger fingers when it comes to bans that have no opportunity for appeal, ads that restrict the conservative worldview, and a workforce that is almost certainly completely left wing.
The report notes that in January of 2018, Facebook changed their news feed algorithm to give preference to “broadly trusted sources,” something the platform has never bothered to define. Even in this report, Facebook neglects to mention who these “broadly trusted sources” include. National File assumes they include the likes of CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, based on anecdotal evidence.
To assuage conservatives’ concerns about algorithmic manipulation, Facebook explains that the concerns are unfounded, as it already solved this problem in 2014:
Facebook introduced “Why am I seeing this post?” to help users understand why they see certain content and to enable them to more easily control what they see from friends, Pages, and Groups. Facebook is also improving “Why am I seeing this ad?” which launched in 2014.
Facebook also notes that they exclusively use the Poynter Institute as their gauge for who is able to fact check news. Absurdly, Facebook also notes that the Poynter Institute owns the incredibly partisan PolitiFact.
In fact, Facebook acknowledges that the only conservative fact checker approved by Poynter is the Daily Caller news foundation.
It seems as though Facebook believes that allowing one right of center fact checking organization to exist among the myriad of far left organizations should be enough to content conservatives.
While Facebook repeatedly references the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, they completely disregard it when discussing “hate speech”.
Describing conservatives’ concerns about the nebulous term, the report notes:
Hate Organization Designations: Facebook prohibits use of the platform by “terrorist groups and hate organizations,” and removes content that praises them, their actions, or their members. We note both the importance of distinguishing between the “hate speech” and “hate organization” designations, and the confusion the similarity of the two labels can cause. Interviewees frequently expressed concern over Facebook’s perceived reliance on the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) and other left-leaning organizations to identify hate groups. Many conservatives view the SPLC as an extreme organization intent on defaming conservatives.
Facebook previously claimed to this journalist that it does not map to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate figures, however, it has banned almost every individual singled out by the SPLC. Further, Facebook considers individuals including Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer to be “hate figures”, and permanently banned them from the platform accordingly.
The report offers no remedy for this situation.
The big tech company also notes that interviewees expressed frustration with the inability to appeal decisions made by Facebook. A page can be banned, and without influential friends in media or within the company, most have no means to appeal such decisions.
National File has at least four such contacts within Facebook, and generally must rely on these contacts for comments from the big tech platform, as their press team rarely replies to our requests for comment.
Again, Facebook says they already solved this problem, and fickle conservatives should stop complaining:
Page managers can now see when Facebook removes content that violates the Community Standards and when Facebook reduces distribution of posts rated “false” by a third-party fact-checker.
Facebook launched an appeals process for posts removed for most types of Community Standards violations and is working to extend this process to other issues. If a photo, video or post has been removed because Facebook found that it violates its policy, the poster is now notified and afforded the ability to appeal. If the post was removed in error, Facebook will notify the poster, and the post will be restored.
Finally, Facebook promises to take the unprecedented step of hiring conservatives in an effort to shake the notion that it is a company controlled entirely by leftists.
In its conclusion, the report daringly references the First Amendment – something that Facebook has previously refrained from doing, as the company maintains it is immune from the protections afforded to American citizens due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency act – with the following statement:
Freedom of expression undergirds the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is also recognized as a basic human right under article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Further, it is integral to Facebook’s stated mission and a core value that underpins its Community Standards.
At this point, the company uses a series of corporate jargon to explain that they intend to do nothing to actually respect the First Amendment rights of its users.
“As we move forward, we will continue to analyze the issues that conservatives are most concerned about,” Facebook promises, while neglecting to promise any type of meaningful change.
The final paragraph of the report concludes:
We are committed to providing Facebook with a clear-eyed, fair, and unflinchingly candid assessment of how its policies and practices may disadvantage conservatives. We look forward to continuing to work with Facebook and the conservative community to ensure that free speech is protected for all Facebook users.
In short, Facebook has identified several major conservative concerns with the platform. However, it intends to do nothing to meaningfully change the platform’s policies, but will continue to “analyze” such issues.