A new Republican-led report tried to determine whether Facebook is biased against conservatives, but didn’t find much in the way of substantial anti-conservative bias on the platform.
Former Arizona GOP Senator Jon Kyl released the report after Facebook arranged a voluntary audit. The audit consisted of 133 interviews with conservatives that were conducted between May-April 2018.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal published on Tuesday, Kyl said that conservative individuals, groups, and lawmakers had a variety of concerns with Facebook, but didn’t show that the platform had any substantive anti-conservative bias.
The concerns included content policies, ad policies, content enforcement, content distribution and algorithms, ad enforcement, and workforce viewpoint diversity. In particular, Kyl said, “Conservatives have expressed concern that bias against their viewpoints may be ‘baked in’ to Facebook’s algorithms. In addition, interviewees argued that Facebook shouldn’t be in the business of separating fact from fiction in the news.”
Interviewees were also concerned about the platform’s policy for hate speech, claiming that the term is ever-evolving and is highly subjective.
Facebook was compliant during the process. Kyl said Facebook already made changes to its policy regarding the concerns brought up in the survey. These include better tools for transparency and a change to ad labeling and ad policies.
“These are complicated issues, some of which involve conflicting opinions even among conservatives,” Kyl said in the op-ed piece. “For that reason, 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.”
Facebook responded to the results of the survey with a blog post, saying, “This work is not an issue of personal political opinion. But 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.”
But there are some flaws in Kyl’s study. For one, 133 people is a drop in the bucket for Facebook’s over 2 billion users. Kyl also said that there was a broad definition of the term “conservative” they used, which ranged from political conservatives to free speech advocates to pro-lifers.
Many conservative politicians, including President Donald Trump, have accused Facebook of political bias over the years. In July, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced controversial legislation that if passed, would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). The bill focused on limiting political bias by having companies ensure that their content is politically neutral as deemed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).