They’ve been several interesting “Facebook censorship” stories in the media this week, but it doesn’t seem that too many folks have tied them together. As the admin for one of the largest firearms-related Facebook pages in existence, let me see about tying all of them together.
Fox News and other outlets have been hammering the social media giant for leaks from former employees that suggest that the long-suspected Facebook censorship of conservative content is all quite real.
That’s what some unnamed former Facebook contractors told the tech site Gizmodo—and it’s an accusation that strikes at the heart of the social network’s credibility.
Facebook relies on computer algorithms to determine what is “trending,” an influential designation that inevitably boosts traffic for what are deemed the hottest topics. But unbeknownst to much of the public, Facebook hires journalists to tweak these formulas, and this is where the question of political bias has erupted.
Gizmodo reports that Facebook “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers,” according to a former journalist who worked on the trending designations. And several former Facebook “news curators” told the website that they were told to “inject” certain topics into the trending list, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant making the crucial list.
Depending on who was on duty, said the unnamed conservative ex-curator, citing fear of retribution from the company, “things would be blacklisted or trending … I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”
That seems really bad for Facebook’s credibility, doesn’t it? If true, it suggests that the site is more about shaping popular opinion as a biased propaganda outlet than it is a true reflection of user interests.
At The Truth About Guns, Robert Farago notes another and presumably related suspicion that has developed within the past year in the gun industry, that Facebook is deliberately throttling firearms-related content, including business pages and gun news sites.
Meanwhile, many of us in the business of providing gun info suspect that Facebook has changed its algorithm to limit sharing of firearms pages’ posts. TTAG has seen a sudden, dramatic and unexplained drop in our Facebook traffic, down from 20 percent of our main site page views to well under 10 percent. Other gun pages report a similar fall off.
Several people in the industry I’ve spoken with in the industry have claimed that they’ve seen Facebook pages which were growing steadily see a dramatic decline in terms of reach and shares over the past year.
At the same time, they claim page “likes” have plateaued, and that their pages are seeing no growth. Several specifically claimed that their content seems to be buried well down in the feeds of their readers, which is also something our readers have complained about with a fair degree of regularity.
If Facebook’s own alleged internal censorship efforts aren’t frightening enough, there are also efforts by gun control supporters to stifle gun groups on the social media platform even more, both in formal gun control groups and from their allies in the media.
One explosive story in Forbes claims that Facebook has a “gun problem.” The author, Matt Drange, clearly has a gun control agenda in mind. He went so far as to attack Facebook engineer Chuck Rossi and the secret Facebook group Admin Contact.
Here’s what Drange had to say about Rossi and Admin Contact.
Chuck Rossi has been at Facebook for the past eight years, and is now a director of engineering. He’s also the company’s self-proclaimed ‘gun guy,’ a certified range instructor, competitive marksman and member of Silicon Valley’s Sunnyvale Rod & Gun Club. But it’s Rossi’s more recent, unofficial role as advocate for banned gun enthusiast groups that’s making trouble for Facebook by undermining, perhaps unwittingly, the company’s new policy.
Rossi is the established leader of the Admin Contact group on Facebook, a secret collection of gun enthusiast page owners from around the country. Thanks to Rossi, whose stated purpose is to bring groups into compliance with the company’s new rules, many of these groups have been reinstated. But sales in some of the reinstated groups have continued, while many have taken the opportunity of a second lease on the site to change settings from “private” to “secret.” The distinction is critical considering Facebook’s enforcement of its ban is entirely dependent on users’ ability to report suspected violations. Facebook declined to comment after FORBES identified Rossi’s role in facilitating the reinstatement of banned gun groups.
Folks, I have a confession to make.
I was one of the very first people added to Admin Contact in February after the radical gun control groups whom Drange clearly favors started a campaign flagging nearly every firearms enthusiast site they could find on Facebook as a “gun sales” site. This included attempts to target 2nd Amendment Supporters, the nearly 2 million “like” page that I administer, and which has never attempted to sell firearms or firearms accessories.
In all my time in Admin Contact I’ve been a lurker with relatively little to say, but I have been observing.
While Drange and Forbes selectively refuses to report it, many of the pages targeted by Everytown, Moms Demand, and other gun control zealots are nothing more or less than enthusiast sites for certain guns or families of firearms. They do not engage in gun sales. Many of them never have. Other pages once allowed gun sales as part of their content, but primarily existed as shooter enthusiast groups. They’ve scrubbed all firearm sales from their pages, and then resubmit to Facebook for reinstatement.
If approved, they get to exist again, after review from Facebooks’ staff, who now know precisely who these groups are.
Drange must not have been told that detail by whoever is feeding him agenda-based information.
So, why is Drange attacking Rossi’s attempts to right wrongs? Why is he upset that Rossi is working to reinstate interest groups that were wrongly terminated by Facebook on complaints from radical gun control supporters?
It seems probable that higher powers within Facebook’s staff who have been responsible for the policies suppressing conservative and firearms-related sites are attempting to find an excuse to throw Chuck Rossi under the bus, and ensure that groups targeted by gun control supporters have no way of appealing their often fraudulent suspensions.
Mark Zuckerberg and his senior management at Facebook have a decision to make.
They can continue what appear to be overt attempts to censor the content of those who have values and ideas different than their own and see a decline in credibility and revenue as a result, or they can establish and abide by transparent policies that ensure their users are fairly represented.
The ball is in your court, Mr. Zuckerberg. Don’t you want to be liked?