Ex-Republican senator: Facebook has ‘significant work’ to address conservatives’ concerns


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A year-long review by a former Republican U.S. senator concludes that Facebook Inc has “significant work to be done to satisfy” concerns on the political right that the social media website is biased against conservatives.

FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of Facebook logo in this illustration picture, April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The report by former Senator Jon Kyl, released on Tuesday, said Facebook has hired staff dedicated to “working with right-of-center organizations and leaders.” U.S. President Donald Trump and many Republicans in Congress accuse various social media firms of bias, while tech companies have rejected the charge.

Some Republicans point to anecdotal examples of what they call unfair treatment of conservative viewpoints but have offered no evidence of systemic bias against conservatives. Facebook and other large tech firms have acknowledged mistakes in handling some specific content issues.

Facebook spokesman Nick Clegg said in a blog post the company needs “to take these concerns seriously and adjust course if our policies are in fact limiting expression in an unintended way.”

The Kyl report noted Facebook has made changes including more transparent decisions on why people see specific posts, ensuring page managers can see enforcement actions, launching an appeals process and creating a new content oversight board made up of people with diverse ideological views.

“We will inevitably make some bad calls, some of which may appear to strike harder at conservatives,” Clegg said.

Republican senators have held hearings over the last two years with Facebook, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google accusing them of bias. Last month, two Republican senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to probe how major tech companies curate content.

Democrats say the bias allegations are without merit. Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono said in April that “we cannot allow the Republican party to harass tech companies into weakening content moderation policies that already fail to remove hateful, dangerous and misleading content.”

The report noted Facebook’s advertising policies prohibit “shocking and sensational content” and the company has historically rejected images of “medical tubes connected to the human body.”

This resulted in some anti-abortion advertisements being rejected. Facebook has revised its policies to prohibit only ads depicting “someone in visible pain or distress or where blood and bruising is visible. This change expands the scope of advocacy available for groups seeking to use previously prohibited images.”

In July, Trump said he planned to call major social media companies for a meeting and asked his administration to explore “regulatory and legislative solutions to protect free speech and the free-speech rights of all Americans.”

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis

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