Remember when institutions like New York University were respected sources of unbiased research?
Yeah, me neither.
It's less research, really, and more like a term paper prepared by a high school sophomore love struck with his new teacher.
In this case, the teacher is Craig Newmark.
We extend special thanks to Craig Newmark and Craig Newmark Philanthropies for continued guidance and financial support.
Craig Newmark is simply a regular Joe looking for the truth, or as he puts it,
Promoting trustworthy journalism, including the ethics of news distribution to deny the amplification of disinformation.
He's also a billionaire, Big Tech entrepreneur, and Joe Biden mega-donor (to the tune of $100,000).
But other than those things, you can be reasonably sure he's only got your best interests at heart.
Just watch the "disinformation."
The title of the report tells you a lot, probably more than they had intended.
The Unfounded Claim that
Social Media Companies Censor Conservatives
Does that sound like an appropriate name for a sober assessment of Big Tech censorship or more like something that would come out of the mouth of Kamala Harris? (I would have said Joe Biden, but it would come out more, "Falsh accushation.. unfound... Look, here's the thing, here's the thing. There's no censorship, man. C'mon. This is America. This is America...")
And of course it is anything but a sober assessment of Big Tech censorship, it's a series of sleights of hand, unsupported assertions, and a willingness to disbelieve your own eyes.
The false bias narrative is an example of political disinformation, meaning an untrue assertion that is spread to deceive.
There it is again, "political disinformation." Keep that in mind, it's important.
In this instance, the deception whips up part of the conservative base, much of which already bitterly distrusts the mainstream media. To call the bias claim disinformation does not, of course, rule out that millions of everyday people sincerely believe it.
Watch your step, this drips with such condescension it might get slippery around here.
The trouble with this belief—that tech companies are censoring political viewpoints they find objectionable—is that there is no reliable evidence to support it.
They want you to believe this so badly.
There are no credible studies showing that Twitter removes tweets for ideological reasons or that Google manipulates search results to impede conservative candidates
I'll admit, they have a point here. Want to know why?
Here's a little nugget buried in the latter half of the report:
Conservatives do get suspended or banned for violating Twitter's rules against such things as harassment, hateful conduct, or, as in Trump's case, glorifying violence. But liberals are excluded in this fashion, as well. Pinning down precise proportions is impossible because Twitter doesn't release sufficient data.
That sounds kind of "bad," as in "totally invalidates the paper and its conclusions bad," but they didn't seem to have a problem with that.
They expand on this towards the end of the paper.
The question of whether social media companies harbor an anti-conservative bias can't be answered conclusively because the data available to academic and civil society researchers aren't sufficiently detailed.
So, maybe you stop working on the study right then and there? No?
Existing periodic enforcement disclosures by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are helpful but not granular enough to allow for thorough analysis by outsiders.
Maybe not title the paper "False Accusation," because you have no data to support such a statement?
In addition to the gross totals they now provide—for instance, of the number of hate speech take-downs for a given period—the platforms should release specific post-by-post information. This should include the nature of the content in question, the particular rule(s) a post violated, how the platform became aware of noncompliance (user report versus algorithmic moderation), and how any appeals were resolved. Such disclosure ought to be possible without revealing personalized, private data or valuable corporate trade secrets. It would allow researchers to identify important enforcement patterns, such as the potential existence of ideologically driven censorship.
Had you that data, it would have allowed you to "identify important enforcement patterns, such as the potential existence of ideologically driven censorship," but you didn't have that data meaning you were not allowed to do any of that.
So why continue writing the report?
Because Craig Newmark didn't pay for a one-paragraph research paper titled:
"Big Tech Won't Release the Data we need to do our Hit Piece."
In fairness, I don't see that getting a ton of clicks.
So, let's soldier on with what they have, less serious research, and more a bunch of interns in desperate need of credits and surviving on Red Bull, Uber Eats, and Google searches.
By many measures, conservative voices —including that of the ex-president, until he was banished from Twitter and Facebook—often are dominant in online political debates.
Brand Polumbo thoroughly dismantles that claim.
One thing liberals often point to is that some conservative content, such as posts by Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino, performs quite well on Facebook. But by just looking at the top few individual publishers, they obscure the broader picture. There are many, many more liberal media outlets than there are conservative outlets. Yes, conservative engagement is more concentrated on a few pages that perform well. This does not mean that Facebook is more flush with conservative content.
Just in case you're wondering if the paper is awash with obvious bias, this sentence actually appears in this academic "research paper."
Trump and other Republicans will perpetuate the bias allegation, in part, because it appeals to the same conspiratorial mindset that has fostered the QAnon movement and that animated at least some of the rioters at the U.S. Capitol. It's also a handy fundraising tool.
And then there is this.
But the misleading Republican suppression argument only distracts from reality-based critiques of the platforms.
Don Lemon couldn't have said it better himself, and he probably has said it.
They address evidence supporting the conservative position by attacking it the same way an MSNBC copy editor would, through subterfuge, willful ignorance, and credulous acceptance of leftist excuses.
The banning of the New York Post story is a perfect example:
Several months later, as the Trump-versus-Biden contest neared its bitter conclusion, Twitter and Facebook both took action against posts of a questionable story about the Biden family published by the New York Post. The article, apparently based on stolen emails, suggested that in 2015, Hunter Biden arranged for a meeting between his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, and an executive with a Ukrainian energy company. The Biden camp denied that any such meeting occurred. Facebook reduced distribution of the Post story; Twitter blocked it from being shared at all.
The emails were not stolen, and in any case, that certainly wasn't a problem when someone illegally released Trumps' tax information, and the story was less "questionable" than the Russian collusion hoax in that they had on-the-record corroboration of it.
The Post/Biden imbroglio, in retrospect, seems like a case of reasonable decisions wrapped in mystifying processes.
Always afford your tech overlords the benefit of reasonable doubt.
I guess that's not a problem. I would have thought it might be but if everyone in the NYU faculty lounge thinks it isn't, I guess I shouldn't either.
Facebook generally tries to stop posts from spreading if there are "signals" of falsehood. But as in the Post/Biden case, the company doesn't disclose what those signals are, leaving onlookers to speculate.
You don't say? Actually, you don't say. You just let it sit there, totally benign, no big deal, maybe, just maybe they could have been a wee bit more transparent while smothering a story unfavorable to their preferred political candidate weeks before a Presidential election.
Oh well, no harm no foul!
For its part, Twitter froze the Post/Biden story based on a rule against sharing hacked material. But under fire from conservatives, Twitter backed down, saying that from now on, it would ban hacked material only if it is directly shared by hackers or their accomplices. Then, Twitter switched its justification to say that the Post's inclusion of certain personal information was the reason the Biden piece was blocked. Consistency, clearer rules, and greater transparency would have gone a long way toward defusing criticism of these platform actions.
"In the future, could you please make it a little easier on us to cover up your actions? We need to retain at least a little credibility here."
Remember, Twitter didn't just suppress the story, they shut down the New York Post Twitter feed.
And then there was hydroxychloroquine.
Twitter has tried to limit the spread of dangerous misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.
They're the good guys, see? No bias at all. Just straight up researching going on here.
In July 2020, it handed Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., a 12-hour suspension for posting a video that misleadingly suggested that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine prevents users from contracting Covid-19.
Conspicuously absent is any discussion of the outright banning of videos of medical doctors, physicians on the front lines, promoting the drug as a useful therapy. At the time they were banned, the question was not remotely "dangerous misinformation." In fact, it was hotly contested in the medical community (and still is) with studies that supported Don Jr.'s contention.
But we can't have a legitimate public discussion regarding the merits of potentially life-saving therapies in the middle of a pandemic, not when there's an election to be won!
Perhaps the most chilling part of the paper, the most dangerous part really, is this assertion made early on:
But the claim of anti-conservative animus is itself a form of disinformation.
This is what politicians with no understanding of how the first amendment works say they want to stop, some suggesting that they should send troops to Washington to fight it. Troops.
Hop in around the 4:40 mark.
To recap, a study asserting that Big Tech censors conservatives was funded by a partisan of both Big Tech and the Democratic party, was based on insufficient data making it "impossible" to reach a conclusion according to the paper itself, reads like a political hit piece, and was prepared under the imprimatur of a major American University.
In other news...