‘Deeply Flawed’ And ‘Laughable’: Experts Slam Study Finding Facebook Does Not Censor Conservatives

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  • Media Matters for America recently released a study finding that Facebook does not suppress conservatives’ pages, but experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation the study is not reliable as it does not properly examine censorship. 
  • The study concluded conservative-leaning Facebook pages typically received the highest total interactions, but experts said that does not indicate a lack of censorship. 
  • “Media Matters wants to weaponize powerful institutions to censor conservatives … They only pretend there’s no censorship on Big Tech platforms because they’re actively trying to encourage the companies to censor more,” Director of Policy for American Principles Project Jon Schweppe told the DCNF.

Media Matters for America published a study recently concluding that Facebook does not censor conservatives, but experts told the DCNF the study is not credible because it did not properly measure the suppression of right-leaning pages.

Right-leaning Facebook pages typically got more total interactions than politically nonaligned and left-leaning pages on Facebook in recent years, according to the study. However, experts say this does not mean that there was no censorship of right-leaning Facebook pages, as the only example of suppression the Media Matters study cites is Donald Trump’s Facebook ban.

Media Matters, a left-wing media organization founded by Democratic operative David Brock, published this study as part of a larger attempt to discredit well-documented evidence that Facebook’s censorship efforts mostly target conservative viewpoints. The organization published similar studies in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and it is “dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media,” according to its website.

Brock is connected to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, according to Politico. Hillary Clinton referred to Media Matters as one of the “institutions that I helped to start and support,” and Brock established a Democratic/Pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC called Correct The Record to aid her 2016 presidential campaign.

Media Matters’ study spans from Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2022, and it found that right-leaning Facebook pages earned the most total interactions in 2020 and 2021, but “nonaligned” pages earned 2% more in 2022. Media Matters used social measurement tool CrowdTangle to track the engagement of nearly 1,500 political and news-related pages on Facebook and evaluated the data for almost 29 million posts in that time period, “including total interactions — reactions, comments, and shares.”

In 2022, although nonaligned pages garnered more engagement, “right-leaning pages earned more than three times as many interactions per post,” according to the study. Media Matters cites this as evidence for their claim that Facebook does not censor conservative users and perspectives.

The study’s lack of censorship measurement “is absolutely laughable,” Director of Policy for American Principles Project Jon Schweppe told the DCNF. “Media Matters wants to weaponize powerful institutions to censor conservatives … they only pretend there’s no censorship on Big Tech platforms because they’re actively trying to encourage the companies to censor more.”

“Media Matters’ faux censorship study is not actually a study on censorship,” Mike Benz, executive director of the Foundation for Freedom Online told the DCNF. “It contains no data on censored accounts, censored narratives, censored groups, censored pages, censored hashtags, or any such thing. All it studies is success — the relative popularity of right-wing pages over left-wing pages on social media platform[s].” (RELATED: ‘Weed Out The Nazis’: Jake Tapper, CNN Guest Say Facebook Should Ramp Up Censorship Ahead Of 2024 Election)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 14: Media Matters Fox Studios Mobile Billboard Activation at Darryl Zanuck Theater at FOX Studios on November 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Media Matters for America)

ABC, CNN and People made it onto Facebook’s top- 10 list for most total interactions, but Media Matters described them as “nonaligned” in the study. Occupy and The Other 98% made it onto the top- 10 list as well, and were the only ones described as “left-leaning” on the list.

Benz added that while right-leaning pages are more popular, “they would be much more popular if not subjected to massive, sweeping, systematic censorship.” Additionally, he stated that even if all the facts Media Matters presents are accurate, the study “still fails to present a case that conservatives aren’t subject to censorship.”

He said the reason Media Matters does not talk about censorship data in the study is that it “would show conservative accounts are vastly disproportionately targeted for censorship. Media Matters is simply upset that, despite that censorship, conservatives have managed to still have relative success. And they simply called themselves being upset ‘a study.'”

Conservative suppression on Facebook is due to rule violations, the study states. “What some on the right decry as censorship is in most cases just private companies enforcing the community guidelines that users agree to when joining these platforms.”

Benz specifically responded to this statement, saying, “What a trick! It’s those very community guidelines that contain the speech violation terms rigged against conservatives.”

He added that Facebook manipulates these guidelines to censor conservatives on issues such as immigration, climate, abortion, guns, LGBT, democracy and more.

Media Matters pressured Twitter to censor the term “groomer,” and the social media platform succumbed to the pressure, suspending political commentator James Lindsay in July for calling a Media Matters employee the term, according to screenshots Lindsay shared with the DCNF.

“It should come as no surprise that Media Matters, an organization devoted to pressuring companies into silencing conservative voices, conveniently produced [a] study that dismisses the existence of conservative censorship on Facebook,” Jake Denton, a research associate at The Heritage Foundation’s Tech Policy Center, told the DCNF.  “Their deeply flawed study is incredibly misleading and fails to capture the realities of censorship on social media … No one should take the findings of this report seriously.”

Media Matters and other organizations also pressured Facebook to censor campaign advertisements by American Principles Project suggesting that President Joe Biden supported men competing in women’s sports in 2020. The effort was successful in getting Facebook to remove the ads, according to Media Matters.

“The fact that a few conservative news sources happen to do strong traffic on Facebook says nothing of the company’s history of censorship,” Schweppe told the DCNF. “Facebook prevented us from delivering that campaign message to thousands of voters.”

Media Matters and Facebook did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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