Chris White on August 21, 2019
Facebook’s critics were not persuaded after the company revealed its long-awaited audit Tuesday into whether the Silicon Valley giant is biased against conservatives.
Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, for one, called the audit a “smokescreen” in a press statement Tuesday. The audit comes as the Show-Me State Republican attempts to etch out a position as one of big tech’s biggest critics in the U.S. Senate.
“Facebook should conduct an actual audit by giving a trusted third-party access to its algorithm, its key documents, and its content moderation protocols,” said Hawley, who regularly dings Facebook, Google and others for what he believes is harming the civil polity. “Then Facebook should release the results to the public.”
Other conservatives were similarly unimpressed. Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, said Tuesday that Facebook is not listening and added the audit “stunningly fails to admit fault or wrongdoing.” They say the audit is incomplete, in that it failed to dig into the minutia of Facebook’s algorithmic system.
Former Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona conducted the report, which showed no evidence of bias but did lead to the tech giant making what some believe are cosmetic changes. Kyl and his team of lawyers met with roughly 130 conservatives over the last year to compile their concerns.
One of the policy changes Facebook announced with the audit makes it easier for pro-life ads focused on survival stories of infants born before full term to be accepted by Facebook, Axios reported Tuesday. The company notes that the policy could also benefit other groups who wish to display medical tubes in ads for cancer research, among other groups.
The audit was unlikely to hit the mark. Facebook continually finds itself mired in problems it cannot possibly navigate through without angering people. Republicans believe the company is riddled with anti-conservative bias, while Democrats worry Facebook is not doing enough to address online extremism and white supremacy.
“This review is a make-believe solution in search of a phantom problem,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement following the report.
She added: “Rather than allowing baseless allegations of so-called anti-conservative bias to distract them, Facebook officials should focus on the civil and human rights problems and white supremacist propaganda overrunning its platform.” Conservatives and liberals, meanwhile, are searching for ways to pressure Facebook into taking up their concerns.
Hawley introduced the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act in June, which dramatically amends a law providing internet companies broad immunity from being sued for content others post on their websites. His bill, if it becomes law, would provide big tech companies such immunity only if they can show they are politically neutral.
Some conservative pundits were quick to suggest that Hawley is misinterpreting the law. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”