American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp issued the following statement in response to an invitation from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to meet to discuss allegations of the social media company suppressing conservative topics and news outlets from appearing in their “trending” news section:
WASHINGTON DC — This past weekend, a senior representative from Facebook contacted me to invite ACU to attend a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg and other conservative leaders to discuss the allegations that Facebook suppressed conservative content. We appreciate their invitation, especially since our organization and annual conference, CPAC, were specifically targeted.
However, we do not believe that the problem between Facebook and CPAC and the broader conservative community is merely a communication problem. Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg are drawing the wrong conclusion from the negative response from conservatives. It appears that they believe they can avoid having to answer for their actions by hosting conservative luminaries at their state-of-the-art headquarters.
Facebook has a history of agitating against conservatives and conservative policies, especially when it comes to ACU’s own conference, CPAC. The facts are:
1) Facebook staff has admitted to suppressing content about CPAC.
2) Facebook rejected ACU’s overtures for Facebook to play a meaningful role at CPAC.
3) The deck is stacked: CPAC content egregiously underperforms on Facebook compared to Twitter and other platforms by factors of 10.
4) The Facebook Trending News Chief, Tom Stocky is a maxed-out donor to Hillary Clinton.
5) Of the 1,000 political donations from Facebook employees, 80% have gone to liberals.
6) Facebook holds liberal positions on important issues such as privacy, property, and priests.
We will not be attending this meeting. We know one meeting cannot possibly resolve all of the above mentioned issues.
ACU would, of course, prefer to have real engagement with Facebook about whether pastors and priests can have full access to Facebook, or if we could come to terms on the FCC’s intrusive rulemaking on privacy, or how we could actually protect intellectual property owners.
Facebook has harmed its credibility with conservatives, but if they want to mend the relationship, we’re happy to sit down with their experts about how they can better strike a balance between sterile algorithms choosing news content and when a human curator decides to put a finger on the scale. If Facebook wants the benefit of the doubt, they need to start with complete transparency on how decisions are made concerning its newsfeeds.
Inducing people to sign-up for a Facebook account under the potentially fraudulent assertion that the company is neutral on news content has serious repercussions. We applaud Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune’s (R-SD/ACU Life Rating: 86%) efforts to ask the tough questions so Facebook users can know the truth.
This is much bigger than just having a meeting with “leading conservatives,” and winning the day’s news cycle. The Gizmodo story has exposed the rift between Facebook’s liberal perspective and the hundred of millions of Americans who self-identify as conservative. We hope to have substantive interactions that can begin to resolve these issues.
Breitbart News was also invited to Wednesday’s meeting but declined to attend. In a statement published last week, Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Marlow declared that “We do not want, nor do we need, Facebook’s corporate ‘validation.'”
“Facebook did it, Facebook got caught, and it must end,” they said. “Free speech is not for sale, and neither are we.”