Facebook admits it shadow-bans posts, pages it deems ‘false’
July 16, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – After months of controversy, Facebook finally admitted last week what many conservatives long suspected: the social media giant intentionally suppresses certain posts and pages.
On July 11, CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported that he attended a media event at Facebook’s Manhattan offices, where he asked company representatives why Facebook continues to allow conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ InfoWars organization on the platform, despite its professed war on “fake news.” InfoWars has a nearly a million Facebook followers and often publishes content that contradicts liberal narratives.
“I think part of the fundamental thing here is that we created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice,” News Feed head John Hegeman answered. News Feed product specialist Sara Su said that “conspiracy theories, misleading claims, cherry picking [...] bugs me too. But we need to figure out a way to really define that in a clear way, and then figure out what our policy and our product positions are about that.”
“If content from a Page or domain is repeatedly given a 'false' rating from our third-party fact-checkers,” Facebook spokeswoman Lauren Svensson added in an email, “we remove their monetization and advertising privileges to cut off financial incentives, and dramatically reduce the distribution of all of their Page-level or domain-level content on Facebook.”
Sharing his report on Twitter, Darcy lamented that he “didn’t get a good answer,” to which Facebook responded on July 12.
Facebook invited me to an event today where the company aimed to tout its commitment to fighting fake news and misinformation.
I asked them why InfoWars is still allowed on the platform.
I didn't get a good answer.https://t.co/WwLgqa6vQ4— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) July 12, 2018
Instead, we demote individual posts etc. that are reported by FB users and rated as false by fact checkers. This means they lose around 80% of any future views. We also demote Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news.— Facebook (@facebook) July 12, 2018
“We believe banning [simply banning any page accused of fake news] would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech,” the company said. “Instead, we demote individual posts etc. that are reported by FB users and rated as false by fact checkers. This means they lose around 80% of any future views. We also demote Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news.”
“Limiting the reach or visibility of content without notifying the author is a practice commonly known as ‘shadowbanning,’” Breitbart’s Allum Bokhari noted. He accused Facebook of “promoting the establishment, corporate, anti-Trump media while demoting the alternative press,” all as a response to “relentless pressure by Democrats and the mainstream media who blame the social network for allowing Trump to win in 2016.”
The admission adds context to analysis of Facebook traffic by Western Journal and The Outline. The former found that left-of-center sites enjoyed a nearly 14 percent traffic increase following algorithm changes last fall, whereas popular conservative sites saw a 27 percent decline. The latter agreed that “conservative and right-wing publishers (such as Breitbart, Fox News, and Gateway Pundit) were hit the hardest,” based on data from the research tool BuzzSumo.
Conservatives say those trends are intentional. A 50-page report released in April by the conservative Media Research Center (MRC) noted that several former Facebook employees admitted in 2016 that the platform “routinely” manipulated its trending news feature to exclude topics of interest to conservatives.
“It was absolutely bias...It just depends on who the curator is and what time of day it is,” one former news curator said.
Recent instances of conservative and Christian content improperly restricted by Facebook include the video bloggers Diamond and Silk, a pro-life documentary on Roe v. Wade, a Holy Week ad by Franciscan University of Steubenville featuring the San Damiano Cross, advertising by Wexford/Missaukee Right to Life in Michigan, and advertising by Republican candidate for Michigan state Senate Aric Nesbitt.
Facebook says it relies on “fact checkers” to decide what content to suppress, but critics say that’s yet another part of the bias, thanks to its reliance on left-leaning publications such as Snopes and PolitiFact as ostensibly-impartial arbiters. The social media giant also takes advice on “hate speech policies” from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the group recently forced to pay a $3.4 million defamation settlement over a false accusation of “anti-Muslim extremism.”
“It seems Facebook wants it both ways,” Darcy replied to Facebook’s follow-up, noting that “claim[ing] it effectively demotes pages into oblivion [...] sounds to me sort of like a ban without calling it a ban. So what happened to the whole free speech thing?”