October 1, 2017

The Federalist’s Bre Payton: Facebook Is Enabling ‘Troll Mobs’ to Censor Conservative Content

A September 27 tweet by President Trump about how the establishment press and social media have worked to thwart his agenda and create a negative perception of him and those associated with him was the immediate trigger for Fox Business’s Neil Cavuto to interview Bre Payton of the TheFederalist.com on his show the following day. But the interview topic went far beyond Trump’s non-specific complaint about Facebook and other media outlets and platforms as: “… always anti-Trump.” Facebook is from all appearances breaking promises made to concerned conservatives late last year by continuing to marginalize the visibility and financial viability of conservative pages, sites, and content, allowing “troll mobs” to indiscriminately censor them by tarring their legitimate content as “fake news.”

Trump’s tweet also tagged the major TV networks, the New York Times and the Washington Post as anti-Trump.

But Payton’s immediate concern was Facebook, and her concerns are widely shared, as seen in the four-minute video which follows:

Partial transcript (bolds are mine):

(from 0:16 to 1:37)

BRE PAYTON, THE FEDERALIST: … It is very clear that Facebook has been completely biased against conservatives for years now. I mean, just last year, a slew of employees left the company and said that they were instructed to suppress information of interest to conservatives and suppress information coming from conservative outlets. And it is not just that.

I mean, since the election, a lot of conservative outlets have experienced a significant drop in Facebook web traffic and interactions and different things like that. And listen, as someone works with Facebook every single day as part of my job, I run that page for TheFederalist.com and I’ve had meetings and been in rooms with a bunch of other people that I work with and people that I know who run Facebook pages for other conservative networks and organizations. And we’ve all been in a room together scratching our heads, saying, ‘What is going on? What can we do to try to fix this?’”

CAVUTO: When you say that, what do you see, Bre, that makes you say, ‘Wait a minute, they’re zooming us here.” What’s going on?

PAYTON: “I think it’s very clear that since the election there has been a significant drop just in interactions and eyeballs going to our page. I’m not going to name names, but one premier conservative organization that’s like the largest organization in the country has said that quite frequently they get more interactions on dog videos that they post on their page than when they post something about policy, which doesn’t really make sense

This is a critical point. Specific policy-based content is being targeted.

Payton is absolutely right that it “doesn’t really make sense” that puff content would be outdrawing policy-based posts originating from think tanks when it never has before — unless someone’s intervening to make the policy-based content less visible. She also noted that many conservative sites are significantly growing their number of “likes” and investing large amounts of money and time to grow their user base — but that their incoming traffic has “drastically” declined over the past six months — which again, doesn’t make sense.

Buy how can that be happening?

Payton explains:

(from 2:23 to 2:29, and 2:40 to end)

I think it also is very clear that something shady is going on and I think Mark Zuckerberg knows that.I think it also is very clear that since Facebook has been attacked about these so-called “fake news” allegations or whatever, Facebook response isn’t to fight speech with more speech, which is what you do when you don’t like something. Their reaction has been to censor and to shut things down, right?

Since these allegations have been spinning forth, Facebook has been saying, “Okay, we’ll empower individuals in order to report things as fake news and just click on a ‘fake news’ button on information that they don’t like.” And anyone can just click on that.

And then just a couple of weeks ago, the social network also announced that they’re not going to allow pages that allegedly share so-called fake news — Which, let’s remember that is determined by users at will, and randomly and it’s completely arbitrary. They’ve said they will not let those pages that repeatedly share so-called fake news purchase ads.

CAVUTO: And who’s determining that? We don’t know.

PAYTON: Right, exactly. The point is that it is enabling Internet troll mobs to be able to just get upset and gang up on something that they don’t like.

CAVUTO: And that instantly becomes “fake.”

PAYTON: Right. Exactly. Yeah, and that is exactly the problem. You don’t fight information that you don’t like by suppressing it. You fight it with more information. You fight speech you don’t like with more speech. So Facebook’s reaction in all of this has been, you know, very clear, that they are not about promoting a platform for all ideas. They are about pushing a certain agenda.

CAVUTO: Bre, thank you very, very much.

PAYTON: Thank you.

All of this leads one to wonder if Mark Zuckerberg and his company are using George Orwell’s thought-tyranny classic 1984 as a user’s manual — or perhaps merely as a starter kit.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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