Zuckerberg feared Facebook’s conservative users, so they received special treatment

Facebook has long shown its preference for right-wing content, but a new report has made it clearer than ever.
On Sunday, BuzzFeed News published a piece featuring comments from former policy employees at Facebook. In it, they detailed how Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg would often personally get involved with policy decisions involving prominent conservative pundits and publishers. The Facebook head would overrule previously established policy in order to specifically land on more lenient outcomes for those right wing personalities. 
Many of these decisions, some of which have been reported on earlier, concern banning prolific users, such as Alex Jones, from the Facebook platform. Read more…More about Mark Zuckerberg, Tech, Social Media Companies, and Big Tech Companies

Facebook has long shown its preference for right-wing content, but a new report has made it clearer than ever.

On Sunday, BuzzFeed News published a piece featuring comments from former policy employees at Facebook. In it, they detailed how Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg would often personally get involved with policy decisions involving prominent conservative pundits and publishers. The Facebook head would overrule previously established policy in order to specifically land on more lenient outcomes for those right wing personalities. 

Many of these decisions, some of which have been reported on earlier, concern banning prolific users, such as Alex Jones, from the Facebook platform.

However, we now have additional insight into Zuckerberg’s involvement in making sure conservative personalities succeeded on Facebook in order to avoid blowback from the right.

Mark Zuckerberg fears Ben Shapiro?

Facebook consistently makes changes to its recommendations algorithm. For example, just before the November 2020 election, Facebook decided to finally make big changes to how the platform’s algorithms handled political content. Political Facebook Groups would no longer be recommended to users.

However, when it came to changes that would effect its conservative user base, the company balked.

Political content was never supposed to be eligible for Facebook’s “In Feed Recommendations.” Yet, unsolicited conservative political content was being pushed into users’ Facebook feeds via In Feed Recommendations. 

In Feed Recommendations is Facebook’s way of giving users a taste of different content by inserting posts from accounts they don’t follow into their newsfeed based on what each user already likes.

According to BuzzFeed, users even complained to the company in the spring of last year regarding right wing pundits, like Ben Shapiro, showing up in their feeds even though they never showed any interest in that type of content.

This political content wasn’t supposed to be there, but it was still being inserted into feeds via In Feed Recommendations even after Facebook was made aware. Why? 

Facebook’s policy team told the company’s employees in August that it was being done to avoid complaints from prominent conservative figures.

“A noticeable drop in distribution for these producers (via traffic insights for recommendations) is likely to result in high-profile escalations that could include accusations of shadow-banning and/or FB bias against certain political entities during the US 2020 election cycle,” said a Facebook message posted on the company’s internal system and provided to BuzzFeed.

It should be noted that claims of anti-conservative bias on Facebook have been unfounded time and time again. Even a Republican study on the issue could not confirm any anti-conservative bias on the platform. 

Facebook tipped the scales for right wing content while throttling left-leaning pages

The exceptions to the policy changes seem to have only applied to conservative personalities and outlets.

Left-leaning news outlets, such as Mother Jones, have previously reported on drops in traffic from Facebook throughout the past few years. Facebook’s own analytics tool, CrowdTangle, frequently highlighted how the social media company favored conservative pages and right-wing content.

Reporting on Facebook’s preferences for conservative pages have often pointed towards a specific individual for the policies: Facebook Vice President of Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan.

Kaplan has reportedly a very close relationship with Mark Zuckerberg. Previous investigations have found that the Facebook policy team, which he oversees, removed misinformation strikes and other penalties from right wing pages. 

Kaplan is a former Republican staffer and lobbyist who left the political arena for the social media giant in 2011 to work on the policy team. He gained some public scrutiny in 2018 when he showed up on Capitol Hill in support of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Congressional hearing.

Facebook’s preferential treatment of conservative content is no surprise, but with every new piece of information we find just how integral it is to the very core of the platform.

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