Whistleblower, leaked docs reveal untold extent of Facebook’s shadow banning, ‘deboosting’ of conservatives
March 1, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The world’s largest social media platform uses several previously-unknown techniques to suppress conservative content based on highly questionable criteria, according to an explosive new Project Veritas report based on interviews with and documents leaked from a former Facebook insider.
The unnamed insider explained that suppression of conservative pages was a common occurrence, primarily carried out via “ActionDeboostLiveDistribution,” an internal tag to flag sites to be affected. Bizarrely, it followed another tag for “Sigma,” which denotes content encouraging suicide and self-harm, regardless of whether the affected sites have endorsed or even covered such topics.
“I would see (this term) appear on several different conservative pages,” she said. “I first noticed it with an account that I can’t remember, but I remember once I started looking at it, I also saw it on Mike Cernovich’s page, saw it on Steven Crowder’s page, as well as the Daily Caller’s page.” By contrast, left-wing pages such as the internet show Young Turks and former pro football player Colin Kaepernick did not have the label.
Critics say this is particularly alarming because unlike suspending accounts and blocking specific links, which are the source of their own ongoing controversy, those affected aren’t notified. “(W)ith these ‘deboost live stream’ things, there was no warning sent to the user,” the insider said. “These were actions that were being taken without the users knowing.”
Another tactic detailed in the documents was to entrap users deemed to be “trolls” in a “Troll Twilight Zone” of limiting their internet bandwidth, forcing glitches such as automatically logging out and comments failing to upload, and “strik(ing) fear in the hearts of trolls” by notifying not only the target of a suspension but the people on their friend list. More suspiciously, these measures would take effect “leading up to important elections.”
Facebook also employs a “Fake Account Index” to distinguish spam from human users, which the insider supports in theory but criticizes in practice, due to the lack of accountability.
“(E)specially when they are using machine learning to do this, whenever an individual actions an account, there is a process where at least you can send a message to Facebook,” she explained. “However, this is all being done without the user’s knowledge. There is no recourse for them.”
In the documents, Facebook data science manager Seiji Yamamoto calls for tackling “quite a bit of content near the perimeter of hate speech,” which the whistleblower defined as “things that aren’t actually hate speech but that might offend somebody;” and defined “red-pilling normies” – internet lingo for “waking up” people one believes to be uninformed – as “destructive behaviors” rather than simple debate or persuasion.
These efforts were “clearly kind of designed” and “aimed to be the right wing meme culture that’s become extremely prevalent in the past few years,” the insider believes. “And some of the words that appeared on there were, using words like SJW… MSM … The New York Times doesn’t talk about the MSM. The independent conservative outlets are using that language.”
Facebook has since fired the insider, whom Project Veritas subsequently hired. In a statement to The Verge, Facebook responded by dismissing her claims as agenda driven.
“We fired this person a year ago for breaking multiple employment policies and using her contractor role at Facebook to perform a stunt for Project Veritas,” the company said. “Unsurprisingly, the claims she is making validate her agenda and ignore the processes we have in place to ensure Facebook remains a platform to give people a voice, regardless of their political ideology.”
It went on to claim that “ActionDeboostLiveDistribution” was only applied to users who tried to upload pre-recorded videos through the API meant for live streaming, and thereby gain an illicit traffic boost, to which Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe responded in a follow-up video:
Facebook confirms "deboosting;" calls investigative journalism a STUNT! pic.twitter.com/o09XaHXxJW— James O'Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) February 28, 2019
“Facebook’s response is interesting, because they do in fact corroborate this ActionDeboost thing that we reported,” O’Keefe said. “They say that they do indeed do this deboost action. But what they say is that they do this to people who try to quote ‘game the system.’”
“We checked with Steve Crowder about this, Steven said it was ridiculous, he didn’t try to game the system,” he continued.
“Louder With Crowder is investigating the allegations of concealed stream throttling by Facebook,” Crowder’s attorney, Bill Richmond, said. “The accusations are deeply troubling given the previously settled dispute with Facebook uncovered by Gizmodo.com, which found the show was targeted by Facebook workers with secret audience restrictions on political grounds alongside other prominent conservative voices.”
“This isn’t rumors, they talk about how right-wingers, they come up with all these crazy theories, and that’s not actually happening at these social media companies,” the insider said. “They pooh-pooh it. But here it is and it’s in your face (...) this is something they were trying to keep in the shadows, that they did not want to public to know and yet the public has a right to know.”