Facebook's Meeting With Conservatives Is A Con Job

 

Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care what you think. All he cares about is getting you to help make it go away.

Last week, several former “news curators” for Facebook revealed that the social media company was systematically blacklisting conservative outlets and conservative topics. Workers tasked with managing Facebook’s Trending Topics product made sure that topics harmful to progressives never found their way into the Trending Topics list.

The confessions from Facebook’s own workers confirmed what everybody in conservative publishing already knew: Facebook punishes conservative outlets and blacklists conservative content.

After sending out a bunch of statements from various executives in a series of failed attempts to make the issue go away, Facebook was forced to send out Mark Zuckerberg himself to smooth the ruffled feathers of the conservative movement. Did Zuckerberg acknowledge that Facebook had repeatedly punished conservative outlets for being conservative? Of course not. He did, however, simultaneously claim that Facebook would conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations, and also that the allegations are totally false and without merit.

Zuckerberg then announced he would host a conversation with leading conservatives to discuss the issue. This is where the real con job begins. Facebook gave the game away with this post from Joel Kaplan, a former official in the George W. Bush White House who now heads up Facebook’s lobbying operation:

A lot of people at Facebook are working to figure out if there are parts of the Trending Topics process that are broken – and if so how they should be fixed. Though we’ve found no evidence the report is true, it is deeply troubling, and if there is a problem, we want to uncover it and correct it. We’ve written more on this topic here: http://newsroom.fb.com/…/05/information-about-trending-top…/

This matters to us because Facebook has always been a place where anyone can share their opinions and engage in discussion. And it especially matters to me. I’m Facebook’s VP of Global Public Policy, and I’m also a Republican and a conservative. We have a team that works to help ensure that everyone, including Republicans, can optimize their use of Facebook in communicating with constituents and fans. The leader of that team is Katie Harbath, a longtime Republican adviser and digital strategist.

I have heard the claims of bias from friends and colleagues. But that is not the truth of Facebook — and I want to share how we ensure we’re a home for all voices, including conservatives.

Look, I’m glad that Kaplan, whom I know and like and occasionally worked with on the Hill, was able to parlay a GOP White House gig into an extremely lucrative Facebook lobbying gig. But this just doesn’t pass the smell test. Kaplan runs the lobbying shop, not the news curation shop. Are we to believe that he has specific, personal knowledge that the confessions from Facebook’s own workers (as well as Facebook’s own documents that give step-by-step instructions on how to blacklist topics) were all just a pack of lies? Are we supposed to take his word over Facebook’s very own internal documents?

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