Thursday, May 19, 2016

Facebook and the Right

It has been said by some, especially by conservatives
who have individual or political group Facebook
pages, that Facebook dislikes, slights, and harasses them
simply for posting politically conservative content.
Accusations have ranged from deleting some posts
to suspending accounts, with the latest being
omitting from their "trending stories" feature pieces
touting the conservative point of view on an issue
of interest. Just a few days ago the website Gizmodo
reported that Facebook employees jiggered FB's
section for trending stories which carries the most
liked and shared stories of the day, excluding stories
from conservative online outlets such as Red State
and Breitbart News. Anonymous ex-employees of
Facebook have revealed that they deleted said material
to Gizmodo. Moreover, according to Gizmodo,
Facebook also "injected" stories that were not receiving
as much attention into the FB trending column,
most notably a piece about the leftist racial group
Black Lives Matter after receiving complaints about
an alleged lack of representation. Selected stories
zoom to the top in shares and likes, as they get the
most attention.

Facebook has strongly denied the charges of such
disdain and favoritism, claiming that no evidence
of having done so has been discovered. The company
claims it takes such complaints "extremely seriously",
and that "There are rigorous guidelines in place for
the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality
... these guidelines do not permit the suppression of
political perspectives."

Now, Facebook is a media company and therefore is
not a public utility. It is certainly free to set its own
editorial standards. Yet they chose news stories through
a proprietary algorithm, after which a human staff member
makes news choices as to what will and will not be
touted by Facebook. To Facebook's credit, they do allow
conservative groups to have their own Facebook pages
where their members can gather online to share news items
and their opinions; your ubiquitous Peasant is a member
of a few such groups. But the administrators of some of
these sites have alerted their members that Facebook
has given them warnings about the content of some of
the material posted, and in some cases has stepped in to
censor the groups by deleting some pieces posted by them.
What could raise the ire of Facebook so that they would
resort to such action? Articles and opinions critical of
President Obama, certain race-themed political figures
and groups, radical Islamic individuals and groups and
such. Gee, haven't they gotten Hillary Clinton's message
from the Bush II era stating "dissent is patriotic"?

It should be noted, as an FYI, that Facebook founder and
CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave quite generously to both of
President Obama's presidential campaigns. Gee, do you
think that this might be impacting Facebook's company

Here's a way to end this brouhaha: Facebook should make
public a detailed look at its policies and standards. A news
distribution system such as Facebook's even suspected by
the public as being biased, especially to the point of being
censorious would lose the trust of the customers who make
the company's revenue possible with advertisement clicks.
Besides, if Facebook is not, after all, playing with content
to exclude conservatives, they would then have nothing to
hide by welcoming the public to study their standards and
how they adhere to them. I'd take a peek myself!

In the meantime, Zucky will host a sort of summit meeting
with some prominent conservatives to explain what Facebook's
content policy and related policies are, and that there is in fact
no attempt by Facebook to give short shrift in any way to
its conservative account holders. That's all very well, but he
had better follow it up with taking appropriate actions to ensure
that Facebook gives fair and honest treatment to the
conservatives who have Facebook pages, ferreting out and
disciplining its staff members who are not complying with
this standard.

Talk is cheap; action is a more valuable currency in the realm
of business interaction. Time for Facebook's honcho to pony up.


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