Facebook wrong to block conservative news

Posted on April 17, 2018 11:52 am CDT

By Congressman Billy Long,

On April 10 and 11, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, testified before Congress in widely watched hearings. On April 10, he faced questions from a joint Senate committee hearing and on April 11, Zuckerberg testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I was one of the congressmen to ask questions of Zuckerberg.

My focus during this hearing was on the apparent bias against conservative news outlets on Facebook. According to reports in 2016, employees at Facebook would routinely censor or purposefully downplay the existence of conservative news stories. One of Facebook’s features, the “trending” news section, would be artificially influenced by those whose job it was to curate the news stories. As a result, popular stories about the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mitt Romney, or then President-elect Donald Trump, would not be featured for Facebook users to see.

According to a Pew Research study, 45 percent of U.S. adults use Facebook as their main source of news. Facebook alone has the largest share of social media news consumers, with many of those users relying on it as their sole source of news. In January, Facebook introduced a new algorithm that manipulated what news stories its users see. The results have been devastating. Since then, conservative news outlets have been directly hit. Whether this was Facebook’s intention or not, this type of behavior will have lasting effects if it doesn’t change.

There are many examples of Facebook purposefully removing conservative content, exposing the inherent biases of the company. One in particular is a video series produced by two President Trump supporting conservative biological sisters from North Carolina, Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, or better known by their professional names, Diamond and Silk. As I mentioned in the hearing, these women were unfairly censored and removed from Facebook because they were deemed as “unsafe to the community.” What did these women do wrong? Nothing. They exercised their First Amendment right and expressed their political beliefs.

I am not arguing against Facebook’s policy for removing posts that are unsafe for the community, but this does not qualify. Social media is often used as a platform for hate speech and a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations; this type of content must absolutely be removed. However, Facebook cannot decide which viewpoints are represented on its platform.

All individuals in the United States should be able to speak their minds freely, especially concerning their political views without thought police censoring them.

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