Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony this week threw a spotlight on the politically correct social media behemoth’s practice of suppressing and marginalizing ideas it doesn’t like.
The testimony came less than two months after a Facebook algorithm change crushed engagement rates on conservative groups’ pages. The change already killed off the Facebook-driven websites Rare.us and LittleThings and is strangling other sites.
A Western Journal study found the change gave 25 left-leaning media organizations a 1.86 percent bump in Facebook traffic, while 25 right-leaning media outfits averaged a 13.71 percent drop.
These figures matter because record numbers of Americans now get news from Facebook.
“Nearly half of all U.S. adults (45%) get news from Facebook,” according to a Pew Research Center survey. “The share of U.S. adults who get news through Facebook is much higher than the share who get news through YouTube (18%), Twitter (11%), Instagram (7%), Snapchat (5%), LinkedIn (5%) and other platforms.”
The algorithm modification itself came after a year of intense national scrutiny and internal pressure to hit back at conservatives and Republicans and force Facebook to atone for supposedly “allowing” President Trump to win the 2016 election. Since the change, engagement on the president’s Facebook posts has declined 45 percent even though engagement rates on the pages of left-wing politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have remained steady.
But conservatives should have seen the crackdown on free expression coming.
“Facebook and the tech industry are located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place,” Zuckerberg acknowledged Tuesday to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Cruz asked Zuckerberg about the “pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship” that Facebook and other tech companies engage in as a matter of corporate policy.
In May of 2016, Gizmodo reported that Facebook had purposefully and routinely suppressed conservative stories from trending news, including stories about CPAC, including stories about Mitt Romney, including stories about the Lois Lerner IRS scandal, including stories about Glenn Beck. In addition to that, Facebook has initially shut down the ‘Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day’ page, has blocked a post of a Fox News reporter, has blocked over two dozen Catholic pages, and most recently, blocked Trump supporters Diamond and Silk’s page with 1.2 million Facebook followers, after determining their content and brand were, ‘unsafe to the community.’
Zuckerberg replied, saying “we don’t have any bias in the work that we do,” but noted that a lack of political objectivity at the company “is a fair concern that people would at least wonder about.”
He said Facebook does not “generally ask people about their political orientation when they’re joining the company” and that he has not personally made any hiring or firing decisions based on politics or support for specific candidates.
He also admitted that he had never heard of ads or pages from Planned Parenthood, MoveOn.org, or any Democratic candidate for office being taken down.
Then again, Zuckerberg wasn’t testifying under oath so his answers may not be worth much. If he lied to the lawmakers he addressed—many of whom have taken campaign contributions from Facebook— he still can’t be prosecuted.
But the pressure generated by media coverage of Zuckerberg’s testimony has forced Facebook to commit to end its “shadow-banning”—covertly blocking or limiting the reach—of the popular page of Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, two sisters who go by the moniker Diamond and Silk and who fervently support President Trump.
Diamond and Silk said in a statement Wednesday that Facebook allows “appalling” things – “videos of people getting shot, killed, and beat up… they even show pictures of our President decapitated.”
Although all the women do is talk on camera, Facebook flagged their page as “unsafe to the community,” without elaborating. Grilled by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Zuckerberg said in that case “our team made an enforcement error and we have already gotten in touch with them to reverse it.”
Despite this encouraging reversal, Facebook, whose market capitalization is closing in on $500 billion, continues to enable Muslim terrorists. Facebook has been named in a handful of lawsuits by survivors of recent terrorist attacks, for providing material support to groups such as Islamic State by failing to take down the pages of terrorist organizations
Closer to home, the Facebook page of a University of Texas Antifa group, the Revolutionary Student Front – Austin, urges “revolutionary violence” against assistant sociology professor Robert L. Reece based largely on his failure to report “a male student who, through [Reece’s] course, realized he had not been obtaining consent in all of his sexual encounters.”
Other Antifa groups urge violent upheaval on Facebook. The page of Los Angeles Red Guards encourages “revolutionary martyrdom.” Facebook allows the downloading of a poster made by Antifa website It’s Going Down. The poster is captioned “Make The Guillotine Red Again” and shows President Trump under the device’s blade.
Will Facebook suddenly become ideologically-neutral after Congress put Zuckerberg in the hot seat?
Don’t count on it.
Matthew Vadum is senior vice president at Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C.