In a positive move, Facebook, which has been heavily criticized for its perceived anti-conservative bias, is taking steps to address the issue after former Arizona GOP Senator Jon Kyl led a team examining many aspects of Facebook that conservatives considered problematic.
In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal, Kyl acknowleged that Facebook itself had asked him to conduct a survey of conservatives to find what their problems were with Facebook. Kyl stated, “Facebook placed no restrictions on how I could conduct the work. My team at the law firm Covington & Burling LLP began conducting interviews in May 2018. We cast a wide net to include as many aspects of conservatism as possible – from organizations focused on Christian values or protecting free expression to those focused on tax policy and small government.”
Kyl noted that last August he shared his the concerns of conservatives with Facebook; those concerns he placed into “six buckets”: content distribution and algorithms, which included the concern that Facebook’s algorithms were prejudiced against conservatives; content policies, which conservatives felt targeted them because they included standards banning “hate speech,” which could be a highly subjective perspective; content enforcement, which conservatives suspected might be influenced by the biases of Facebook employees; ad policies, by which Facebook required advertisers to register as “political” organizations if they wanted to post ads, which might jeopardize conservative organizations’ status as nonprofits; ad enforcement, which might inhibit conservative ads because of the approval process, and workforce viewpoint diversity, which pointed to the perceived lack of viewpoint diversity among Facebook’s workforce and senior management.
Kyl noted that Facebook has implemented some changes already to address their perceived bias, including the formation of an oversight board “to hear appeals of some more-difficult content-removal decisions”; creating transparency tools that will enlighten users why certain content appears on their news feeds; allowing page managers “to see when their content has been removed for violating community standards, or when distribution of a post has been reduced because a fact-checker gave it a ‘false’ rating”; hiring four more employees to respond to organizations troubled by Facebook’s content decisions; renaming its ads library, and changing the policy that heretofore had banned images of patients with medical tubes as “shocking and sensational content.” Kyl noted, “This will make it easier to promote certain pro-life ads.”
Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs and Communications, stated, “We know we need to take these concerns seriously and adjust course if our policies are in fact limiting expression in an unintended way … This is the first stage of an ongoing process and Senator Kyl and his team will report again in a few months’ time … regardless of one’s own political views, this is about whether we apply our own policies fairly to all sides, and whether those policies begin with an understanding of how core groups of users express their beliefs.”
Clegg concluded, “I would like to express my gratitude to Senator Kyl and his team for all the work they have done so far on this crucial, if sensitive, issue – and I look forward to working with him and with colleagues across Facebook to continue to examine, and where necessary adjust, our own policies and practices in the future.”