Facebook purposefully throttled specific news outlets after the election, limiting the distribution of posts from certain pages and accounts under the guise of combating “false and misleading claims” about election results and fraud. The New York Times reported the censorship increase Tuesday.
This confirms what I've heard anecdotally from conservative publishers: that their FB reach was throttled after the election
— Peter J. Hasson (@peterjhasson) November 24, 2020
The New York Times reported the big tech company relies on a “secret internal ranking system” called news ecosystem quality scores (N.E.Q.) to determine which journalism the company will allow to circulate on the platform. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly expanded the N.E.Q.’s algorithm presence following the election to “make sure authoritative news appeared more prominently.”
Sources such as CNN, The New York Times, NPR, and others benefitted from Zuckerberg’s changes, receiving more traffic and distribution on the site while others lost page views and reach. Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox bragged about the company’s decisions and reportedly said he was “proud of how the company had applied labels to election-related misinformation, pointing users to authoritative information about the results.”
While some of the changes the company enacted for the election were supposed to be temporary, Facebook has tested and implemented other features meant to curb certain content and boost others.
One of the newest additions to the big tech company’s censorship factory is a “machine-learning algorithm” that restricts posts that it thinks people would deem “bad for the world.” Another algorithm identifies and limits content that the social media platform believes would “provoke a flood of hateful comments” in Facebook groups.
The company also contemplated extending its COVID-19 fact-checking program to more topics, calling the campaign “correct the record” and using it to reduce the spread of what they label “misinformation.” That program was ultimately not employed following concerns that it would “disproportionately” affect conservatives whose content is arbitrarily labeled as “false news.”
The NYT article also noted that Facebook’s censorship efforts “will be made easier” by President Donald Trump’s departure from the White House because the big tech company won’t receive pushback or criticism about its leftist political biases from the president.
Big tech censorship is a rising concern for many conservatives and members of Congress as companies such as Twitter and Facebook continue to make editorial decisions about the political content on their websites. Big Tech can affect elections, purchases, and people’s knowledge of threats such as COVID-19 by deciding what they are allowed to learn and share.
Just last week, Zuckerberg refused to directly answer questions or provide information about Facebook’s censorship campaigns to the Senate Judiciary Committee, brushing off Sen. Josh Hawley’s interrogation about the company’s alleged coordination with other Silicon Valley companies like Twitter and Google to censor users and content.