'Big Tech’ So Biased Against Conservatives It’s Gonna Help Trump Win Re-Election
Donald Trump and his Republican stooges insist that social media is stacked against them. That is, when they can remember which platforms are which. Last week, Republican Jim Sensenbrenner demanded that Mark Zuckerberg explain why Donald Trump Jr. had content removed from Twitter, which Zuckerberg doesn't own.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R): Why did Facebook censor Donald Trump Jr? ZUCKERBERG: That happened on Twitter, so hard… https://t.co/6jEyOxJNJK— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar)1596046221.0
Zuckerberg does own Facebook and Instagram, which are both very tolerant of conservative rightwing disinformation. The top trending posts on Facebook are consistently right wing voices such as Dan Bongino, Blue Lives Matter, so many Bens Shapiro, and the president himself. "Big Tech" is not out to get conservatives, no matter what Senator Ted Cruz claims.
#BigTech’s power over our free speech is profoundly dangerous. @Google, @Facebook, and @Twitter are the single grea… https://t.co/j62GVFCRu9— Senator Ted Cruz (@Senator Ted Cruz)1596376575.0
Republicans are pushing a double-whammy of disinformation, an Ocean's Eleven-style con where they tell us we're being robbed as a distraction from robbing us. “Big Tech" does have tremendous influence over the spread of information. We've written on this site about the threat Facebook specifically poses (and has posed) to our “democracy and free and fair elections." However, “Big Tech" isn't out to get conservatives — quite the opposite.
The ongoing scam is the promotion of misleading content and outright lies on social media. Democrats believe these platforms should have standards for their content, which is no more “censorious" or restrictive than the rules that have governed print publications for generations. Republicans insist that any restriction of content, even pulling videos that promote quack medicine or articles that suggest the bloody glove didn't fit O.J. Simpson because it belonged to Joe Biden, is “totalitarianism." These are the same people who claim protesters at a rally with anti-police signs are de facto terrorists.
Last month, Trump Jr. baselessly claimed that Instagram was threatening to delete accounts that call out “liberal bias." What's actually true, according to Buzzfeed News, is that for the past couple months, when Instagram users have searched for hashtags associated with Donald Trump or Joe Biden, they were delivered content primarily supportive of President Klan Robe while receiving an array of content, much of it negative, about Biden. This was attributed to a “bug."
Earlier this week, a search on Instagram for #JoeBiden would have surfaced nearly 390,000 posts tagged with the former vice president's name along with related hashtags selected by the platform's algorithm. Users searching Instagram for #JoeBiden might also see results for #joebiden2020, as well as pro-Trump hashtags like #trump2020landslide and #democratsdestroyamerica.
A similar search for #DonaldTrump on the platform, however, provided a totally different experience. Besides showing 7 million posts tagged with the president's name, Instagram did not present any related hashtags that would have pushed users toward different content or promoted alternative viewpoints.
Why watch Fox News when you can browse Instagram?
Instagram itself didn't discover the “bug." It was uncovered by the nonpartisan watchdog group the Tech Transparency Project.
"What we've seen with the related hashtags with Biden is that there is so much vitriol, that it appears to be benefitting President Trump," said Katie Paul, a director with the Tech Transparency Project. The fact that related hashtags didn't surface for many Trump-related phrases also "removes any possibility that negative hashtags could be associated with his name or campaign slogans," she added.
It's unclear how a “technical error," as Instagram describes it, would suppress negative related hashtags for populating from #Trump, #Trump2020, or #MAGA while negative hashtags such as #creepyjoebiden and #neverbiden were simultaneously appearing alongside the hashtag #JoeBiden.
Yeah, it's a big mystery! Ken Farnaso, a deputy national press secretary for Trump's second attack on America, has gathered the suspects together in a large room and declared that liberals were the culprit all along! We're sabotaging our own efforts to remove Trump.
FARNASO: It's preposterous that Silicon Valley, the bastion of diversity and liberalism, is terrified of intellectual diversity and conservative voices.
What Farnaso just said is quite preposterous.
Facebook and Instagram have been used to spread disinformation by trolls both foreign and domestic. Our democracy is at stake and not just because Twitter won't let Trump Jr. promote snake oil.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."