Accuracy in Media

Jon Kyl, a Republican former U.S. senator from Arizona, just released an interim report commissioned by Facebook identifying major problems with how conservatives view Facebook and the lack of trust conservatives perceive the tech giant’s approach to media and conservative activists.

Kyl works for the law firm Covington & Burling, which assisted in managing the research. As laid out in The Wall Street Journal in an article called “Why Conservatives Don’t Trust Facebook,” Kyl said conservatives’ concerns fell into six main areas:

• Content distribution and algorithms. Conservatives have expressed concern that bias against their viewpoints may be “baked in” to Facebook’s algorithms. In addition, interviewees argued that Facebook shouldn’t be in the business of separating fact from fiction in the news.

• Content policies. Facebook’s community standards prohibit hate speech, graphic violence, adult nudity, sexual activity and cruel and insensitive content. Several interviewees pointed to the highly subjective, ever-evolving nature of some of these standards, in particular the term “hate speech.”

• Content enforcement. Interviewees were concerned that the biases of Facebook employees who enforce the rules may result in disproportionate censoring of conservatives. Some midsize and grass-roots organizations also believe their appeals are not taken as seriously as those of larger organizations.

• Ad policies. In the wake of strong evidence from the U.S. intelligence community that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election with fake social-media accounts and inflammatory content, Facebook required advertisers to register as “political” organizations in order to post ads with a political or policy focus. Some conservative interviewees said this new rule jeopardized their status as nonprofits under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code.

• Ad enforcement. As a result of Facebook’s new, more stringent ad policies, interviewees said the ad-approval process has slowed significantly. Some fear that the new process may be designed to disadvantage conservative ads in the wake of the Trump campaign’s successful use of social media in 2016.

• Workforce viewpoint diversity. Several interviewees noted the overall lack of viewpoint diversity throughout Facebook’s workforce and senior management.

Kyl said Facebook was working to alleviate conservatives’ concerns and had taken proactive measures to do so; conservatives no doubt will continue to monitor whether these changes actually occur.

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