For a while now, some have accused Facebook of a bias against conservatism. In response, the social media titan’s taking steps toward a more beautiful world.

A Tuesday Wallstreet Journal article by Republican Arizona Congressman Jon Kyl indicates the ‘Book asked him to survey those on the Right in search of grievances last year.

The senator explains:

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.

Jon categorized the concerns via “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
  • Workforce viewpoint diversity, which pointed to the perceived lack of viewpoint diversity among Facebook’s workforce and senior management

In the WSJ piece, Jon brings good news — Facebook’s already adopted methods toward bolstering the brand with far-reaching fairness.

The new installments, as listed by the report:

  • Oversight board. Facebook announced plans last month for an oversight board to hear appeals of some more-difficult content-removal decisions. If structured to reflect accurately the diverse ideological and religious views of Facebook’s user base, the board may help ensure content decisions are made thoughtfully and free from inappropriate bias.
  • Explanations of news-feed rankings. To foster user trust in the algorithms that influence content placement, Facebook has launched transparency tools that explain to users why they see certain content on their news feeds.
  • Page transparency. Facebook has enabled 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.
  • Staffing. Facebook has hired four additional people devoted exclusively to working with smaller organizations to resolve questions and complaints about content decisions.
  • Ad labeling requirements. To avoid incorrectly branding ads as “political,” Facebook renamed its ads library and now refers instead to ads “about social issues, elections or politics.”
  • Ad policies. Facebook has changed its ad policies that prohibit images of patients with medical tubes as “shocking and sensational content.” This will make it easier to promote certain pro-life ads.

Jon calls these “steps in the right direction.”

The issues are complicated, he notes, and — therefore — “restoring trust fully may remain an elusive goal. Conservatives no doubt will, and should, continue to press Facebook to address the concerns that arose in our survey.”

But at least it’s rightly-aimed movement.

Facebook provided on “update on Senator Kyl’s review,” courtesy of VP of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg.

Here’s what he had to say, in part:

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.

Sounds like the right track.

-ALEX

 

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