Facebook on Tuesday released an interim report about potential political bias at the company. One conclusion: Trust is an “elusive goal.” The report — part of an ongoing review process — comes after Republican lawmakers have repeatedly accused the social media company of bias against conservatives.
The review has been led by former Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona, and his law firm Covington & Burling. As part of the review, the group interviewed conservative groups, individuals and lawmakers who either use, study or could potentially regulate Facebook. They found that people were concerned that there was bias against their viewpoints resulting in disproportionate enforcement from the social media company.
Kyl offered his preliminary findings to Facebook in August 2018, and the social network implemented changes in response. This included the creation of an oversight board made up of different ideological and religious views to hear appeals regarding content that had been removed; more transparency with its news-feed rankings, pages and ads; and hiring more staff to deal with questions and complaints about content decisions.
“We believe these and other measures described in our interim report are steps in the right direction,” Kyl said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Tuesday. “Yet these are complicated issues, some of which involve conflicting opinions even among conservatives. 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 says Kyl and his team will report again in the coming months.
“When dealing with such nuanced issues, involving policies that apply to billions of posts, we will inevitably make some bad calls, some of which may appear to strike harder at conservatives,” Nick Clegg, vice present of global affairs and communications, said Tuesday in a statement. “That’s why it is so important that we work to make sure this process is free of bias, intended or not. After all, we can say that we welcome political expression on our platform all we want, but it won’t mean much unless people trust that we craft and apply our rules fairly.”
Facebook began its political bias review in May 2018, the same time that it started a civil rights audit. The social media company, along with Twitter and Google, appeared before Congress on July 2018 to discuss how their platforms filter content. All three companies reiterated that there is no political bias in those decisions. The next month, a report from a group of Facebook employees criticized the company’s largely liberal workplace.