Are Social Media Firms Biased Towards Conservatives? There’s No Stable Proof, Report Concludes

Top line

The common argument by Republicans that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have an anti-conservative bias is “a lie with no reliable evidence,” New York University researchers say in a new report in which they argue that right-wing voices are actually “dominant” in online political debates. “

Then-President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on January 12th on the South Meadow of the White House. … [+] 2021. (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Getty Images

Key factors

The claim of anti-conservative bias toward social media “is itself a form of disinformation,” concluded the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights Researchers, based on an analysis of existing studies, social media analysis, and anecdotal examples of supposed anti-conservative bias You found “[tend] collapse on closer inspection. “

The report exposes a number of right-wing claims as false or based on unsubstantiated evidence, such as Twitter’s “banning Republicans” and disproportionately blocking conservative users, or that Google engineered its search engine to have Joe Biden win the presidential election – a claim based on a study whose methods were “highly questionable,” the researchers said.

While it is “undisputed” that most tech company employees are liberal, the researchers found that most content moderation decisions are made by contractors outside of the United States, and executives making high-level decisions are “determined to to appease rather than fight against political law. “

Twitter and Facebook’s decision to ban Donald Trump in the final days of his presidency – what he called social media censorship – was a “sensible reaction” to Trump breaking the platforms’ rules, the study argued, and it came after the companies had previously given Trump an “extra wide berth” and tried to “appease him”.

“Social media played a central role in Trump’s 2016 victory,” the researchers noted, arguing that Trump’s claim that social media platforms are biased against him “does not survive the test.”

Republican leaders push allegations of anti-conservative bias for “whipping up part of the conservative grassroots” when the allegations are false, the report argued, also noting that the argument serves as a “practical fundraising tool” for right-wing politicians.

Big number

654 million. This is how many Facebook interactions (including likes, shares, and comments) Trump had on his Facebook pages between January 1 and November 3, 2020, according to the report. That figure far surpassed other politicians – Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) Took second place with 33 million interactions – and Fox News and Breitbart also had the most interactions among the major media platforms. “When the platforms are trying to suppress conservative views, they are not doing a very good job,” the researchers said.

Crucial quote

“There is a widespread right-wing campaign to argue that they are being silenced or cast aside, and that spirit is helping fuel the extremism we are currently seeing in our country,” according to the NYU Stern Center for Business Paul Barrett, assistant director for human rights, said about the findings of the report. “We cannot just allow this to be a discussion point. It’s not legitimate. It’s not backed by the facts. “

Key background

Trump and other Republicans have repeatedly argued that they are being treated unfairly by social media companies. “Big Tech is looking for conservatives,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) at an antitrust subcommittee hearing in July. “That is not a suspicion. I have no idea. That’s a fact. “They used these claims to push for the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal act that protects and enables social media companies to be legally accountable for the content posted by their users To weed out types of content they consider out of bounds as well as the people who post it. The conservative outcry against alleged tech censorship grew stronger after Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook in early January when the president was promoting the company blamed his Twitter ban. “[going] always further with the prohibition of the freedom of speech. “The anti-conservative bias allegations have gained prominence among much of the Republican Party, although they were false: A poll by Pew Research published in August found that 90% of Republicans believe that social media is” likely to Purposely censor sites that they find offensive ”.

What to look for

The NYU report makes a number of recommendations for social media companies and the Biden administration to dispel suspicions of anti-right-wing bias. This includes more detailed explanations of measures to moderate content, the choice between different algorithms and the creation of a new Digital Regulatory Agency social media oversight. The researchers also predict that conservatives are unlikely to leave major sites like Twitter and Facebook because of their perceived biases. Conservatives like the broad platform these websites offer, researchers said, and “seem to enjoy using the bias claim stick despite being based on biases and falsehoods.”

further reading

False Accusation: The Unsubstantiated Claim That Social Media Companies Censor Conservatives (NYU Stern)

Do Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube censor conservatives? Claims “not supported by the facts,” new study says (USA Today)

Trump Cuts Anecdotal Evidence Of Major Technical Prejudice When Urging Congress To “Repeal Section 230” (Forbes)

What is section 230 – and why does Trump want to change it? (Forbes)

Comments are closed.