Facebook has released the interim findings of a ‘political bias review’ conducted by former Arizona senator John Kyl.
Kyl’s interim report concludes that “Facebook’s policies and their application have the potential to restrict free expression” and that “this is a danger that must be taken very seriously.”
“Although we recognize that this may involve some tradeoffs between safety and free expression, we do not believe there is any need to cut off robust diversity of thought,” the report continues.
The report notes some of the steps taken by Facebook in response to Kyl’s review, including the creation of an appeals process for suspended content, greater transparency about the mechanisms that determine what content users see on the platform, and explaining the way items in users’ News Feed are ranked.
The former senator also published a piece for the Wall Street Journal outlining conservative concerns with Facebook, highlighting common concerns about bias content moderation policies. Kyl also highlighted steps taken by Facebook to address these concerns, including plans to establish an oversight board to “hear appeals of some more-difficult content-removal decisions.”
“As Facebook considers additional changes, we will continue to help it understand conservative perspectives,” wrote the former Arizona senator. “To live up to its vision as a platform for all ideas, I believe Facebook understands it must do all it can to regain the trust of conservative users.”
Kyl’s report was sharply criticized by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who has become a leading voice against the overbearing power of Silicon Valley.
“Merely asking somebody to listen to conservatives’ concerns isn’t an ‘audit,’ it’s a smokescreen disguised as a solution,” said Sen. Hawley in a statement.
“Facebook should conduct an actual audit by giving a trusted third party access to its algorithm, its key documents, and its content moderation protocols. Then Facebook should release the results to the public.”
As Axios reported in May, Kyl’s review was conducted as part of a wider effort by Facebook to address concerns about political bias:
The conservative bias advising partnership will be led by former Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, along with his team at Covington and Burling, a Washington law firm.
- Kyl will examine concerns about alleged liberal bias on Facebook, internally and on its services. They will get feedback directly from conservative groups and advise Facebook on the best way to work with these groups moving forward.
- The Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think tank, will convene meetings on these issues with Facebook executives. Last week the group brought in tech policy expert Klon Kitchen to host an event with Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert.
“From what I’ve heard, it sounds encouraging that Facebook is taking steps to evaluate where things stand in the marketplace and hear concerns.”
— Rob Bluey, VP Communications, Heritage and Editor-in-chief of The Daily Signal
This isn’t the first time Facebook has been pressured to conduct an inquiry into political bias. In 2016, after news broke that the social network was suppressing news stories of interest to conservatives, the social network conducted an internal investigation into political bias, ultimately declaring itself not guilty.
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Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.