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The conservative playbook against Facebook

Today we learned about two ways conservatives hope to put Facebook on the perpetual defensive. After
March 6 · Issue #97 · View online
The Interface
Today we learned about two ways conservatives hope to put Facebook on the perpetual defensive. After a relatively long period in which the company managed to avoid most partisan mudslinging, the New York Times today reported on a new documentary that will charge Facebook — along with Google and other tech giants — with censoring conservative viewpoints. Here are Michael Grynbaum and John Herrman:
The critique from conservatives, in contrast, casts the big tech companies as censorious and oppressive, all too eager to stifle right-wing content in an effort to mollify liberal critics.
“This could end up being the free speech issue of our time,” said Alex Marlow, editor in chief of Breitbart News, which has published articles accusing Google and Facebook of, among other sins, political bias. “The Silicon Valley elites are saying: ‘We don’t care what you want to see — we know what you should see. We know better.’”
Big Tech is easily associated with West Coast liberalism and Democratic politics, making it a fertile target for the right. And operational opacity at Facebook, Google and Twitter, which are reluctant to reveal details about their algorithms and internal policies, can leave them vulnerable, too.
And so “Big Tech” is rapidly becoming the new “mainstream media” — an all-purpose punching bag, constantly accused of acting in bad faith, mostly by people who are acting in bad faith themselves.
Which brings us to the second prong of the conservative plan: creating deceptive websites celebrating right-leaning candidates and promoting them on (where else) Facebook. Here’s Alex Kantrowitz:
Mainstream politicians are looking to do it too by creating made-for-Facebook “news” sites that traffic in partisan and sometimes sensationalist messaging geared to spread on Facebook and other social platforms. In the months since the 2016 election, the Republican Governors Association, California Rep. Devin Nunes, ex-Hillary Clinton aide Peter Daou, and other politicians have sponsored these sites. Nunes’ site, the California Republican, is filled with headlines like “CNN busted for peddling fake news AGAIN!” and “New York Times is doing a GREAT job as Communism’s salesman.” It greets visitors with a pop-up asking them to like it on Facebook before they enter and features a “Like us at FB” banner that’s approximately twice the size of its own logo. The site’s only visible connection to Nunes is a tiny disclosure in its footer.
So one flank of the movement derides the platform as a censorious bugbear, while another games the platform to take maximum advantage of its distribution capabilities. The headline for Kantrowitz’s story is “Facebook’s political nightmare is about to get worse,” and while that strikes me as somewhat hyperbolic, in the short term it’s hard to articulate why politics on Facebook are going to get better.

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