A key player behind the British Brexit movement is charging that Facebook is “doctoring” the news to conform to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s “personal political views.”
British politician Nigel Farage, in a commentary quoted extensively by Breitbart, spoke out as Zuckerberg was grilled by the European Parliament about privacy, bias on the web and other issues.
Farage said the “value of Facebook as a political communications tool is hard to overestimate.”
“Without it, Brexit almost certainly would not have happened and Donald Trump would not be U.S. president,” he wrote, noting he “reminded Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg of this.”
“It’s fair to say that this high priest of the liberal elite did not look best pleased at my dwelling on the key role his company has played in helping to create what he would regard as these totally unacceptable democratic outcomes,” Farage said.
He said Zuckerberg’s “personal political views, and no doubt those of his close colleagues in Silicon Valley, may help to explain why in January this year Facebook announced its algorithms were going to change.”
Farage noted the tech giant said it was going to “de-prioritise” news publishers and their posts in Facebook users’ news feeds.
“In other words, it was going to doctor the kind of news to which Facebook’s 1 billion users were exposed,” he said.
“And this is exactly what it has done.”
Farage said the “impact of this decision has been swift and brutal.”
“According to analysis of Facebook engagement data using various tech programmes including BuzzSumo, conservative publishers like Breitbart and Fox News (for whom I work as a contributor) have seen a significant decrease in the numbers visiting their websites and engaging with their messages via Facebook. It is estimated that traffic to certain right-of-centre sites and commentators driven by Facebook has fallen by 25 per cent or more,” he wrote.
Consequently, opinions and reports by conservative news sites are being censored by Facebook, he said.
Breitbart reported: “You do not need to be Alan Turing to understand what Facebook’s technical tinkering has done. Whether or not you like these news sources and their opinions, they are effectively being censored – presumably because of their support for Trump or Brexit.”
Wired magazine reported it appeared Farage was correct in his understanding that Facebook’s actions knowingly have undermined conservatives.
“In the last six months, daily engagement on right-wing pages has dropped significantly, falling by 600,000, or 4.8 million a week. Overall, in the last year, engagement on these pages has fallen by 29 percent, a little more than Farage claimed,” the report said.
The Verge reported when Farage, in his role as the U.K. representative to the EU parliament, questioned Zuckerberg.
“What is absolutely true is since January of this year, you changed your modus operandi, you changed your algorithms, and it has led directly to a very substantial drop in views and engagements for those who have got right-of-center political opinions,” he told the Facebook CEO.
“The facts are very clear. Just look at President Trump’s numbers. On a much smaller scale, look at mine. Look at thousands of other conservative commentators. On average, we’re down about 25 percent over a course of this year.”
He pointed out Zuckerberg repeatedly has claimed Facebook is a platform “for all ideas.”
“I’m not talking here, Mr. Zuckerberg, about extremism. I’m not talking about encouraging violence. I’m not talking about hatred of anybody. I’m talking about people who have majority mainstream opinions, and I feel they’re being willfully discriminated against. What’s interesting to me is, who decides what’s acceptable? The people you referred to earlier, the third-party fact-checkers. Who are these people? Why is there no transparency in this process at all?” Farage questioned.