Yesterday, Facebook was very proud to announce the results of a year-long review by former Senator Jon Kyl. The purpose of the review was to better understand the accusations of political bias, mostly from Conservatives, against the platform. According to Kyl’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal, the concerns of those he interviewed fell into six broad categories.
- Bias is baked into Facebook’s algorithms and they should not be in the business of separating fact from fiction
- That the platform’s community standards were constantly evolving and objections to the category “hate speech”
- Bias in the employees charged with enforcing the rules and the appeals process for smaller organizations
- Requiring advertisers to register as political organizations to run ads with a policy focus
- The drawn-out ad approval process due to the stringent ad policies
- Lack of viewpoint diversity at the company
In the announcement, there were several things Facebook planned to address which included how they handled political ads and the creation of an oversight board for how they handled the appeals of some high profile content removal decisions.
The announcement was supposed to ease tensions between the social media company and users on the political right. However, rather than getting out of the business of fact-checking content, the company committed to explaining newsfeed rankings. These algorithms and “fact checks” have already negatively impacted several Conservative sites. Not sure an explanation fixes that problem. They will also now tell you when they limit the distribution of a post because their “fact-checkers” give it a false rating. Again, why not just stop?
Probably because they are serving two masters in this fight. Facebook consented to a series of civil rights audits from a very left-leaning assessor. Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg released the commitments from that process on June 30, 2019. One action:
We’re taking steps to address this, including a US pilot program where some of the people who review content on Facebook only focus on hate speech instead of a range of content that can include bullying, nudity, and misrepresentation. We believe allowing reviewers to specialize only in hate speech could help them further build the expertise that may lead to increased accuracy over time.
Balancing the commitments made to both groups will be challenging to say the least. And within 24 hours of the announcement of what they would do to address Kyl’s assessment two high profile content decisions were made.
This morning, news hit that an ad from Women for Trump was removed. I confirmed this with one of the board members. Supposedly, because it assumed the gender of the women in the picture.
Can you say peak ridiculousness? Perhaps the assessment they received from Senator Kyl didn’t mention that many people on the right, as well as the vast majority Americans, assume the gender of almost everyone they see. I am also wondering how many posts Forbes Women and Women for Women International have had removed. Since they “assume the gender” of the person pictured on nearly every post.
The other content decision was not allowing the website started by popular Trump-supporting meme maker, Carpe Donktum to work.
I think this is #winning…
— Carpe Donktum? (@CarpeDonktum) August 20, 2019
Now we all know the left can’t meme, but the right has some pretty good meme artists. And anyone who has spent any time on social media is aware of what a meme is. Satirical short videos or images that everyone knows are a creation, not news or a depiction of factual events. The website was even called “Meme World”. Saying satirical content violates their “Community Standards” is about as stupid as Snopes fact-checking the Babylon Bee. Or just an admission that having a sense of humor is not allowed on Facebook.
Until Facebook decides to employ a good faith approach to known creators, organizations, and campaigns, rather than allowing fringe left-wing zealots to flag content with abandon, nothing will change. Just because Facebook recognizes dozens of genders doesn’t mean most Americans do. Yet activists can use a ridiculous rule based on fringe political ideology to get a perfectly valid political ad pulled.
One that was shared by the President’s official Facebook account. Not the best kick off for a grand announcement about addressing bias. Facepalm Facebook.
We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.
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