Excerpts from report from Congressional hearings yesterday…
The clearest evidence so far that the social media giants are manipulating what you read, hear and see.
WASHINGTON — While House Republicans pressed Facebook, Twitter and YouTube officials about charges of anti-conservative bias Tuesday, Democrats complained that the giant social media companies are bending over backwards to appease conservatives.
Facebook took the hardest hits from members of the House Judiciary Committee as lawmakers from both parties questioned how the company decides when to remove a controversial group’s page from its platform.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., asked a Facebook official why it still has not taken down the page of a group called Milkshakes Against the Republican Party, which has posted calls for Republican members of Congress to be shot. Facebook removed the group’s offensive posts, he said, but allowed it to continue to maintain a page.
Gaetz said a member of his staff wrote to Facebook to complain, and received a response saying that the group’s page “doesn’t go against our community standards.”
“How many times does this have to happen before the page comes down,” Gaetz asked Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management.
She replied that pages are removed “when a certain threshold has been met” but said that threshold varies from case to case. Still, she did say there is “no place for violent content on Facebook,” which is why the specific posts advocating the killing of GOP lawmakers were removed.
Democrats pointed out that the issue is not limited to groups that attack Republicans or conservative causes.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked Bickert why Facebook does not remove Infowars, the far-right site led by conspiracy theorist and radio talk show host Alex Jones. The site denies the mass shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and calls the high school students who survived this year’s mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., “crisis actors” posing as students.
Bickert said that any posts labeling the Parkland students as actors are removed from Facebook. However, she said Infowars hasn’t yet reached the threshold to have its entire page taken down.
“When you’ve got Infowars and Alex Jones repeatedly denying the reality of mass shooting, at what point does the page come down?” Raskin said.
Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va,. said he believes the social media companies have made progress in becoming more transparent about how they make their decisions. But he said glaring mistakes continue to be made.
“Just before July Fourth, for example, Facebook automatically blocked a post from a Texas newspaper that it claimed contained hate speech,” Goodlatte said. “Facebook then asked the paper to ‘review the contents of its page and remove anything that does not comply with Facebook’s policies.’ The text at issue was the Declaration of Independence.”