June 26, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – As conservatives remain concerned about Facebook restricting their free speech, the head of a left-wing “media watchdog” group is claiming that conservatives are the ones enjoying undue support from the social media giant.
Facebook is “is falling for a faux scandal cooked up by conservatives” about “unsubstantiated” allegations of bias, Media Matters president Angelo Carusone claimed Tuesday in an editorial published by CNN.
Media Matters describes its mission as “comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media,” but conservatives say its true mission is to demonize conservative voices and promote leftist narratives and misinformation. Leftist billionaire George Soros has supported the organization with millions in donations since its birth in 2004, though he didn’t go public with his support until 2010.
Media Matters founder David Brock has described the organization’s mission as “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” against Fox News. As part of that mission, Media Matters is known for spearheading advertiser boycotts that have unsuccessfully attempted to get Fox News personalities such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham off the air.
Carusone chided Facebook for enlisting former Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl to lead an internal review and soliciting input from the conservative Heritage Foundation, which he claims “all but guaranteed that the review will conclude that Facebook has anti-conservative bias.” He also blasted the company for agreeing to a meeting with Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
In fact, while Facebook is taking feedback from conservative groups such as Heritage (because conservative groups are the ones affected by the alleged bias), critics have expressed concern that the review will be conducted by a team from Covington and Burling, a Washington DC law firm in which former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder is a partner. Holder was the center of his own scandals over anti-conservative discrimination.
“This reflexive rolling over is alarming and portends a future where Facebook does not just tolerate political strong-arming of its platform, but enables it,” Carusone claimed.
He argued that premise of the controversy was “demonstrably false,” citing 2017 and 2018 analysis from the social media analytics company Newswhip finding that conservative websites such as the Daily Wire and Western Journal continue to outperform liberal websites, with some conservative journalists even being ranked the top reporters on Facebook.
However, other analyses have found very different results.
A March review by the conservative Western Journal found that left-of-center sites enjoyed a nearly 14% traffic increase following algorithm changes last fall, whereas popular conservative sites saw a 27% decline. March analysis by The Outline also found 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.
Part of the discrepancy appears to be whether or not mainstream media organizations are counted as non-partisan, despite their left-wing bias. While some explicitly liberal sites such as the Daily Kos also say their traffic has suffered, Newswhip itself reported in April that the top ten websites with the most Facebook engagement were all mainstream media outlets: CNN, NBC, Fox News, the New York Times, Huffington Post, the BBC, the UK Daily Mail, the Washington Post, Yahoo, and the Guardian. Conservative media sites including the Daily Wire, Breitbart, and Western Journal saw the biggest declines.
Newswhip also confirmed that President Donald Trump’s Facebook posts experienced a 45% decline in engagement following the company’s algorithm changes.
Carusone went on to note that Facebook found “no evidence of systematic political bias” in a previous self-investigation, suggesting that the company should have closed the subject right there instead of considering calls for a third party to corroborate its self-diagnosis.
“If we do nothing, Facebook will continue to allow conservatives to game the platform's attempts at responsiveness,” he concluded. “This will mean devastating consequences for the truth and for our democracy.”
Despite Carusone’s insistence that the allegations are unsubstantiated, conservatives say there remains substantial cause for alarm.
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.
Facebook’s “fact-checking” feature, meanwhile, relies primarily on left-leaning publications such as Snopes and PolitiFact for ostensibly-impartial “fact checking,” as well (in fairness, the conservative Weekly Standard is also listed as a fact-checker). It also takes advice to “inform our hate speech policies” from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the infamous left-wing group recently forced to pay a $3.4 million defamation settlement over a false accusation of “anti-Muslim extremism” and accused of similar slurs against many other mainstream conservative groups.
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 the 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.
At the same time, despite one of Facebook’s stated purposes behind their actions being to combat “fake news,” Facebook continues to allow a fundraiser for reuniting illegal immigrants with their children to use a header photo of a crying child who has been widely presented as separated from her mother, despite a subsequent clarification that the child in question was with her mother at the time, and the two were never separated. The fundraiser's goal of $25 million has reached over $20 million so far.