Despite supposedly strengthening its fact-checking and misinformation policies in recent months, Facebook has largely failed to bring appropriate action against conservative groups and other allies of President Trump, according to a detailed report from The Washington Post. The investigation looked at specific Facebook posts and ad spending and found, unsurprisingly, that accounts like Donald Trump Jr.’s and one belonging to a pro-Trump super-PAC were not subject to Facebook’s enforcement penalties.
Current and former Facebook employees — all of whom spoke under the condition of anonymity — said Facebook has gone as far as protecting these accounts against more severe enforcements because the company is worried it will be perceived as unfairly silencing conservative voices.
Talk about over-correcting. The expansion of Facebook’s fact-checking and misinformation policies has largely tiptoed around Donald Trump and his allies for fear of negative press — but this is an entirely new level of problematic, even by Facebook’s standards.
Special treatment — Instances of pro-Trump accounts being shielded from Facebook’s typical repercussions are numerous and unsettling.
For example: toward the end of 2019, after repeatedly violating Facebook’s misinformation policies, the company removed a “strike” against Donald Trump Jr.’s account. This would have categorized Trump Jr.’s page as a “repeat offender” — subjecting him to penalties such as reduced traffic and possible demotion in search. So Facebook removed it in fear of retaliation.
This same action has been taken many times for members of the president’s family, one former Facebook employee said.
Consequences — Facebook worries about backlash from the president’s supporters for good reason: Trump isn’t afraid to use the full force of his presidential power to go after big companies that cross him the wrong way. Twitter slapped Trump’s account with a misinformation label for the first time back in May — and he hasn’t stopped railing against the company since.
What Facebook fails to recognize, it seems, is that it’s impossible to spread the curb of misinformation while giving special treatment to those spreading it. As always, it’s the company’s business that comes first. If the best way to keep making money is to overrule its own fact-checking rules, that’s exactly what Facebook will continue to do.
Facebook continues to tout a credo of fairness and free speech — but the company’s own interests get in the way of that supposed mission more often than not. If the trend continues, so too will that of people ditching the service once and for all. Maybe a mass exodus will change Mark Zuckerberg’s tune. Even that seems overly optimistic, at this point.