Word has spread of testimony from former Facebook employees that they were routinely told to censor or suppress stories of interest to conservative readers, while promoting stories of interest to left-wing readers. Facebook has since been attempting to deny such allegations, but that hasn’t stopped more testimony from coming forward. According to the claim, the news curators of Facebook’s “Trending” section were asked to inject news stories into the trending feed despite a lack of popular interest among users, and they were also asked to block news that came from conservative outlets (such as Breitbart.com or Newsmax,com).
Even though Facebook insists that the allegations are false, it’s not as though we can trust Facebook management. If this is true, then it shows something very ugly about the people who run Facebook. It’s clear to me that Facebook is attempting to decide what its users see, and given the kind of man its CEO is, that should be very disturbing. Over a billion people use Facebook, and apparently the people who control it only want them to hear a single political narrative. It’s moments like these that honestly make me ashamed to have once identified as left-wing, especially now that it’s painfully obvious that the left now dominates the narrative of society.
Don’t get me wrong, I despise right-wing politics, and I don’t trust a lot of conservative news outlets, but that’s mainly because the majority of them use populist language and distort the truth, but now I find that the left are no better than the right. The other thing to remember is that Facebook is one of the biggest websites on the Internet, with one of the world’s most powerful and ubiquitous brands of our time. It is now so big that can practically act as a news publisher, and that on its own is startling. With that in mind, the fact that they have actively engaged in any form of censorship is chilling, especially if remember that this isn’t the first time Facebook has been accused of censorship.
A few months ago, Facebook censored a political cartoon critical of Israel, after being suspected of allowing anti-Israel posts. When the German chancellor Angela Merkel asked Mark Zuckerberg if Facebook would suppress posts that were deemed “anti-immigration”, Zuckerberg entertained the idea that he was already working on it. In fact, Facebook has a history of censoring content at the request of governments, sometimes under various censorship laws.
Facebook’s conspicuous history of nefarious and often hypocritical censorship is an insult to what the Internet is supposed to be about. I believe that the World Wide Web is a place where users can explore and add to it as they wished, and if that is to continue being the case, censorship should not be tolerated by anyone. That Facebook tolerates censorship at all says something very disturbing. It tells me that Facebook is abusing its popularity and taking advantage of the fact that most of its users share the site’s obviously liberal values, thinking that nobody will mind the erasure of views that most people find objectionable, and it’s really disturbing that I find myself showing a glint of concern for the likes of Breitbart, the same website that was accused by its own staff of accepting a bribe from Donald Trump.
For me, this belies an even bigger concern – that the left have gotten so powerful and so popular within the mainstream that some of its most influential followers wish to tip the balance in favour of the left. They have become today’s equivalent of the conservatives of the 1950’s, and what we’re seeing is a sad reflection on this ideological shift in the balance of power. Facebook can try to deny these allegations of censorship all they like, but it won’t do them any good because allegations of censorship don’t go away very easily, and the act of censorship also tends to leave a black eye on the reputation of those who engage in it.