Accuracy in Media

Ben Shapiro had dinner with Mark Zuckerberg and apparently hatched a plot that enables Shapiro’s “toxic right-wing website” to reach millions of voters with dangerous conservative views with the 2020 election approaches, according to a video posted to NowThis.

The video is narrated by Judd Legum, who began his newsletter, Popular Information, after leaving ThinkProgress, the liberal news website where he was founder and editor-in-chief and that since has collapsed.

He fancies himself a guide for Americans to know which media to access.

“People need to make intentional choices and to regain power over what news they read,” he said in an interview last year.

And he believes he has identified a serious problem.

“A toxic right-wing website is gaming Facebook to reach millions of people in advance of the 2020 election,” he begins. “And Facebook is letting them get away with it.”

He charges the Daily Wire, founded by Shapiro, “pushes inaccurate and incendiary stories. Recent content from the Daily Wire claimed gender equality is a lie, LGBTQ people don’t want to be accepted by society, and there’s not anything that can be done to combat climate change.”

Legum then laments that the Daily Wire is the 11th most-popular publication on Facebook, ahead of ABC, CBS, NPR and USA Today.

“And that actually understates how well the Daily Wire does on Facebook,” he states. That’s because it is so much more efficient than the others. The New York Times, he says, employs hundreds of journalists who produce more than 10,000 pieces of content per month. The Daily Wire has “just a few dozen employees who produce much less. On a per-article basis, content from the Daily Wire is shared far more often than any other outlet.”

Legum says a “clandestine network of 13 large Facebook pages with names like Conservative News, Fed Up [Americans] and Lady Patriots” that purport to be independent but exclusively promote content from the Daily Wire in a coordinated fashion.”

Dozens of times per day, he says, these other sites post content from the Daily Wire at the same time with the exact same text.

“This behavior violates Facebook rules” that “prohibit groups of accounts and pages working together to mislead people about who they are what they’re doing.”

Facebook does not agree with Legum’s interpretation of its rules or narrative on the actions on these other websites because it is “insisting they are ‘real pages run by real people,’” he says.

Legum then says he has “uncovered evidence that at least two of the pages are owned by the Daily Wire,” though he does not produce it.

This is a big deal because “It’s algorithm rewards content that is shared by multiple pages. By having more than a dozen that repeatedly post Daily Wire content, it gives the site a huge edge.”

Then he gets to the truly troubling part. “The impact” on the 2020 election of conservative news getting wide play on Facebook “could be significant,” Legum says, and users should question why Facebook gives the Daily Wire “special treatment.”

He says we don’t know for sure, but we do know Shapiro and Zuckerberg recently had dinner together and Daily Wire has praised Zuckerberg and Facebook.

“Whatever the reason, there’s one set of rules for the Daily Wire and another for everyone else,” he concludes.

Legum is not the only one criticizing Facebook for allowing opposing views onto its pages. In an article on Zuckerberg’s decision to allow political ads to go in without editing or fact-checking, the New Yorker responded: “This rhetoric sounds nice – “free expression and “in a democracy” are the phrasal equivalents of American-flag lapel pins – but it doesn’t amount to much.

“It’s one thing for Zuckerberg to build the world’s biggest microphone and then choose to rent that microphone to liars, authoritarians, professional propagandists or anyone else who can afford to pay market rate. It’s another, more galling thing for him to claim that he is doing so for everyone’s benefit.”

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