The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Doing Its Part

Social media is the most important communication medium to arise in more than a century. Almost every person in industrialized nations and even many emerging nations uses Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (to name only a few) for gossip, updates from friends and relatives, and actual news. Although it's not the least bit surprising, it is concerning that Facebook has been editing out right-leaning news stories from their trending posts. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Do the folks at Facebook have it out for media outlets that don’t lean left politically? That is one question from allegations that the social media giant chills conservative speech online. The company’s response will show whether Facebook is as committed to transparency as its executives claim.

On Monday the website Gizmodo reported that Facebook employees jiggered the site’s “trending stories” feature that ostensibly aggregates the day’s most liked and shared stories. Anonymous former employees claim to have logged instances of Facebook staff excluding content from conservative outlets such as Red State or the pro-Donald Trump Breitbart News, or, say, an article about the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Gizmodo also accused Facebook of “injecting” stories that weren’t receiving attention into the trending column, including pumping a piece about Black Lives Matter after complaints about a lack of representation. Selected stories shoot to the top in shares and likes.

Facebook executive Tom Stocky denied the allegations late on Monday, saying the company takes bias reports “extremely seriously” and claiming the team looked into the Black Lives Matter incident and found no evidence that it happened. “There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality,” the statement continued. “These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives.”
Gosh, I suppose that's just like the IRS guidelines that absolutely forbade the powerful government agency from targeting people on the right who opposed a particular political view point. IRS spokespeople stated unequivocally (a.k.a. lying)  that there was no intent to target conservatives—it was all an unfortunate mistake. Oh wait, a senior IRS official took the Fifth, rather than testify over a mistake? The Democrats trained hamsters in the media yawned. Nothing to see there, move on.

Facebook is, of course, a private enterprise. It is not bound by the same rules as the IRS. But Facebook is a de facto information utility, and if it chooses to bias its content, it should at least inform its readers that it is doing so. Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a proud progressive. That's okay, but one wonders whether his people on the ground were biased by his public political statements, just as IRS people may have been biased by Barack Obama's hard left positions on many subjects.

In the upcoming presidential election, media bias (whether conventional media or social media) will be in full bloom. Big intrusive government and an incoherent foreign policy—both espoused by the Democrats—will be protected at all cost. The narrative that conservatives are "racist, misogynistic and bigoted" will be maintained at all cost. It appears that Facebook is doing its part.