Are Social Media Platforms Suppressing Conservative Politics?
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Last August, Paula Bolyard, a supervising editor at the conservative news outlet PJ Media, published a story reporting that 96% of Google search results for Donald Trump prioritized “left-leaning and anti-Trump media outlets.”
Her results were not sound because of her own admittedly unscientific methodology. She searched for “Trump” in Google’s News tab, and then used a very unstable media chart that separated outlets into “left” and “right” to formulate responses. She reported that 96 of 100 responses were from so-called “left-leaning” news outlets, with 21 of those from CNN alone. Despite her experimental flaws, Bolyard’s statistic spread, and her story was picked up by a Fox Business Network show.
A few days later, Donald Trump tweeted that Google results were “rigged” against him, referring back to Bolyard’s findings, which again, were not accurate.
Whether you like it or not, social media is the form of communication with this generation — not just in the U.S., but worldwide. 1.8 billion people are on just Facebook and Twitter alone. More than two-thirds of all Americans use Facebook, and Google is the No. 1 search engine in both the U.S. and the world.
Because of this, war is being declared on the conservative movement in this space, and conservatives are losing — badly. If the right is silenced, lots of people will be cut off from conservative ideas and conservative media.
Social media platforms have become the new battleground of media bias. The Media Research Center has directed an extensive study of the problem at major tech companies — Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube — and the results are far more troubling than most conservatives realize. Here are some of the key findings:
Twitter Leads in Censorship: Recent findings have caught Twitter employees admitting the use of hidden cameras that they had been censoring conservatives through a technique known as “shadow banning,” where users think their content is getting seen widely, but it’s not. The staffers justified it by claiming the accounts had been automated if they had words such as “America” and “God.” In 2016, Twitter had attempted to manipulate election-related tweets using the hashtags “#PodestaEmails” and “#DNCLeak.” The site also restricts pro-life ads from Live Action and even Representative Marsha Blackburn, but allows Planned Parenthood advertisements.
Facebook’s Trending Feed Has Been Hiding Conservative Topics: Former employees claimed that Facebook’s new leaders had been instructed to hide conservative content from the “trending” section, which supposedly only features news users find compelling. Topics that had been blacklisted included Mitt Romney, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and Rand Paul. On the other hand, the term “Black Lives Matter” had also been placed into the trending section even though it was not actually trending. Facebook had also banned at least one far right European organization but had not released information on any specific statements made by the group that warranted the ban.
Google Search Aids Democrats: Google and YouTube’s chairman Eric Schmidt had aided in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The company’s search engine had deployed a similar bias in favor of Democrats. One study had found 2016 campaign searches were biased in favor of Hillary Clinton. Even the liberal website had revealed the search engine’s results had favored both Clinton and Democratic candidates. Google also had fired engineer James Damore for criticizing the company’s “Ideological Echo Chamber,” although the company claims he was fired for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” Damore is now suing Google, saying it mistreats whites, males and conservatives.
YouTube Is Shutting Down Conservative Videos: Google’s YouTube site has created its own problems with conservative content. YouTube moderators shut down entire conservative channels “by mistake,” and removed videos that promote right-wing political views. YouTube’s special Creators for Change section is devoted to people using their “voices for social change” and even highlights the work of a 9/11 truther. The site’s very own YouTube page and Twitter account celebrate progressive attitudes, including uploading videos about “inspiring” gay and trans people and sharing the platform’s support for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
Liberal Twitter Advisors Outnumber Conservatives 12-to-1: Twelve of the 25 U.S. members of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council – which helps guide its policies – are liberal, and only one is conservative. Anti-conservative groups like GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) are part of the board. There is no well-known conservative group represented.
Recommendations For The Tech Companies:
People Are Policy: Tech companies like Google and Facebook are making an effort to hire conservatives, but that doesn’t address the core problems within those organizations. Companies need to eliminate political biases that discriminate against conservatives. They also need to protect employees’ ability to practice their own beliefs without being judged or criticized.
Expect Regulation At This Pace: Tech companies are facing calls for regulation from the left and right. The companies should address this by setting rules about how they will treat both conservative and liberal organizations and information fairly. This means that clear, published guidelines must be established that support free speech online. Algorithms, content guidelines and ad policies must be designed so that they don’t target political speech.
Avoid Partnering With Bad Actors: Twitter, YouTube and others have tried to establish policies that prevent hate speech on their platforms. But those policies are being enforced by organizations that generally hate on the conservative movement and can’t pretend to be neutral players. Groups like the SPLC and ADL label core conservative values as “hate” or “bigotry.” Tech companies can’t expect conservatives to trust a system that is one-sided.
Modify Flagging Systems: One of the worst problems tech companies deal with is the abuse of their flagging and reporting systems. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, in particular, succumb to liberal activists who constantly report conservative content. These services must determine a better way to handle alerts that do not allow coordinated campaigns against the right.
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