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24 May, 2018 21:47

Republicans challenge Facebook & Twitter on anti-conservative bias

Republicans challenge Facebook & Twitter on anti-conservative bias

The GOP and Trump 2020 campaign have called on social media giants to prove that their platforms are not biased against conservatives. Facebook and Twitter have been accused of suppressing right-wing users.

“We are alarmed by numerous allegations that Facebook has blocked content from conservative journalists and groups, and Twitter has hidden such content from conservative users’ followers,” says the letter sent Thursday by the Republican National Committee and President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, addressed personally to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Both social media platforms have announced a crackdown on “fake news” and “Russian bots” in recent months, under mounting pressure from Congress and the media seeking an explanation for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 presidential election.

Twitter has recently announced it would prioritize certain tweets and hide others in order to improve the “quality of conversations” on the platform, prompting complaints by supporters of President Donald Trump that they are being throttled or “shadowbanned.”

Zuckerberg was grilled over claims that Facebook was censoring pro-Trump content when he appeared before Congress last month. Republicans specifically asked about Diamond & Silk, two black pro-Trump bloggers who had their videos labelled “unsafe” by Facebook. Zuckerberg claimed the incident was an “enforcement error."

One of the issues raised in the letter from the GOP and Parscale was Facebook’s announcement earlier this month that it would partner with third-party media organizations to ‘fact-check’ news sources, and “dial up the intensity” of its content suppression. The vast majority of the media organizations - e.g. BuzzFeed, CNN, Univision, HuffPo and The Atlantic - lean Democrat.

Facebook also said it would work with another third party to encourage voter registration in advance of the 2018 midterm elections. The letter asks Zuckerberg to assure the GOP and the Trump campaign that registration ads will be seen by all users equally, not just potential Democrat voters.

“We ask for your assurances that transparency, neutrality, and protection of all speech will be core tenets of Facebook and Twitter operations, now and in the future,” the letter concludes.

Trump has been an early adopter of Twitter and used the platform to great effect in his presidential campaign. Parscale was hired as a social media guru, and he leveraged the campaign’s access to Twitter and Facebook to get Trump’s message to America, bypassing the legacy media that were seen as overwhelmingly favoring Clinton.

However, undercover videos filmed by Project Veritas earlier this year suggest that the political climate in Silicon Valley isn’t very different.

"Every piece of information we have shows that pretty much everybody at Twitter is of the same political bias, the same political background. And it seems that the entire attitude permeates the entire company," Project Veritas spokesman Stephen Gordon told RT in January.

Facebook and Twitter have argued that they are private companies, who can set and enforce the rules of conduct among their users without government regulation. That position may now be in jeopardy, following Wednesday’s decision by a federal judge in New York. Ruling that Twitter is a “designated public forum,” Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said that Trump cannot block people from following his personal account on the basis of political disagreement.

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