The MRC Can't Stop Failing In Its War Against Facebook
The Media Research Center discredited its own narrative that Facebook is "censoring" conservatives by bragging about how well its conservative content does there. It also whined about Facebook having a protected VIP list -- but censored the fact that Donald Trump was on the list for years.
By Terry Krepel
ConWebWatch has documented how the Media Research Center's narrative that Facebook loves to "censor" conservatives and only conservatives is bogus, given how much Facebook has reached out to conservatives -- including Mark Zuckerberg having secret dinners with Brent Bozell -- in an attempt to stop the attacks. Indeed, the evidence that Facebook gives conservatives a more-than-fair shake has continued to pile up:
The MRC also spent a lot of time attacking Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen for getting more traction than the MRC's attacks on Facebook ever have -- even though it used what she leaked to the Wall Street Journal to attack Facebook before it knew the info came from her.
Yet the MRC's false narrative has continued, pushing every example of a conservative being "censored" (even if they are actually far-right extremists). It started off 2021 peddling examples such as these:
But the MRC is lying to you about conservative "censorship." How do we know? Because not only does the MRC use Facebook, it brags about how well it's working. On April 6, the MRC sent out an email telling its readers about how essential a tool Facebook is to pushing its right-wing agenda (overenthusiastic bold and red type in original):
We have big news that brings immense insight to conservatives who believe in spreading the messages of freedom.
The email also included a link to a video -- hosted on Facebook, natch -- that tells people how to keep MRC content in their Facebook newsfeed. Still, it laughably insisted, "we know that Facebook and other media platforms are censoring the right."
Lying to people to push a false narrative is clearly a key part of "the MRC effect."
Despite lacking any credibility in conducting legitimate research -- and despite said alleged "research" being filled with bias -- the Media Research Center think it can judge the research of others. Kayla Sargent wrote in a March 5 post:
A New York University-affiliated organization has joined the left-wing bandwagon to attack conservative media on Facebook. In so doing, it ignored the social media platform’s obvious bias against conservatives.
Yes, the MRC really is mad that Facebook pointed out that a meme falsely portraying "The Cat in the Hat" as containing "inappropriate content" was flagged for missing context.
The VIP list fail
Alexander Hall huffed in a Sept. 13 post under the similarly huffy headline "Does Facebook Have Different Rules for VIPs? Report of Leaked Documents Suggest It Does":
Facebook reportedly has a specific set of elite users who don't have to follow the same censorship rules applied to average users.
Hall's alarmist take might be justified -- if he hadn't censored the fact that Journal made a big point of noting that among the major XCheck beneficiaries has been Donald Trump:
In practice, Facebook appeared more concerned with avoiding gaffes than mitigating high-profile abuse. One Facebook review in 2019 of major XCheck errors showed that of 18 incidents investigated, 16 involved instances where the company erred in actions taken against prominent users.
That interferes with the MRC's narrative that Trump was a victim of "censorship" by Facebook -- it turns out he was given a pass to regularly violate the platform's rules.
Because Hall knows that, he made sure to get back on his narrative, huffing further that "Big Tech censorship has disproportionately aided the left in recent years" and citing the Hunter Biden case as an example -- never mind that the Journal article offers no evidence there is any ideological bias in Facebook's XCheck issues, or that it appears the issues actually benefited conservatives like Trump.
Hall's censorship of facts inconvenient to his narrative is much closer to actual censorship than many of the claims the MRC has made about purported "censorship" of social media posts, in which it has portrayed a flag about content or demonetization of a post -- but the original posts could still be read -- as "censorship." And he's definitely not going to tell you that it's attacking Facebook's purported "censorship" while the MRC is bragging about how well its content does on Facebook.
More failed attacks
Alexander Hall devoted a July 28 post to complaining -- under the ridiculously alarmist headline "Free Speech Armageddon" -- that Facebook had added another fact-checker called Meedan to focus on health misinformation: "Censorship incoming? Facebook makes a massive partnership with a leftist-supported organization to assist its so-called fact-checking about COVID-19 vaccines." He went on to issue personal attacks on Meedan personnel, including one board member who he claims "is part of a group of leftwing activists who created a pretender Facebook Oversight Board urging far more stringent censorship for Facebook."
Putting "misinformation" in scare quotes or dismissing it as "so-called" is another way the MRC pushes its victimization narrative. That theme continues in later posts.
Gabriela Pariseau used an Aug. 17 post to rant: "Members of Facebook’s Oversight Board revealed that the board prefers to operate under the guideposts of globalism and so-called consistency not American values enumerated in the First Amendment." Why? Because "the Facebook Oversight Board’s priorities lie in alleged consistency and globalism rather than the American values of free speech and free expression." Pariseau declined to admit that the First Amendment offers no protection to misinformation and lies.
Autumn Johnson pushed a government-Facebook conspiracy in an Aug. 19 post:
Facebook is taking action after pressure from the White House. The Biden administration blamed the platform for the majority of coronavirus “misinformation.”
Johnson offered no evidence that any "pressure" from the White House directly led to Facebook taking the action, despite going on to claim that "Some argue pressure from the federal government should classify Big Tech social media platforms as 'state actors.'" That list of 12 people who spread COVID misinformation, by the way, came from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which the MRC impotently attacked a couple months later for putting it on a list of groups that misinform about climate change.
Johnson returned to complain on Aug. 26:
Facebook is reportedly creating an election commission to weigh in on political affairs across the globe, according The New York Times.
Johnson went on to claim that "Facebook's alleged fear of looking bad to the left and its media allies shouldn't go unnoticed," citing the infamous "poll from the Media Research Center, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, shows 36 percent of Biden voters were NOT aware of the evidence linking Joe Biden to corrupt financial dealings with China through his son Hunter." Johnson failed to disclose that McLaughlin was Trump's election pollster, throwing doubt on the poll's accuracy and impartiality.
An Aug. 31 post by Pariseau featured her boss, Brent Bozell, whining that Facebook's plan to "reduce political and news content in its News Feed" will “disproportionately” affect conservatives. Johnson went on to inadvertently debunk the MRC's narrative that conservatives are victimized and "censored" on Facebook:
Bozell’s criticisms are not unfounded. Facebook wrote a blog last year that showed which Facebook pages generated the most engagements on posts that included links during the week of Oct. 23 through Oct. 29, 2020. The blog post showed that three of the top five pages and six of the top 10 pages included prominent conservatives, news organizations and groups including: Dan Bongino, Fox News, Breitbart, Ben Shapiro, USA Patriots for Donald Trump and Donald Trump for President. The Twitter account Facebook’s Top 10 shows that the weekly trend has similarly continued to the present.
Pariseau seemed unaware that her employer has bragged about how well its content does on Facebook, which also undermines its narrative.
A Sept. 23 post by Alexander Hall complained that Facebook wanted to improve the quality of its news feed:
Facebook openly announced its plans it uses to demote content, but at least it’s attempting to be transparent about the process. Right, Facebook?
Hall went on to complain that "Facebook has interfered with user News Feeds before, especially around elections," going on to cite its well-worn complaint about it disabling links to the New York Post's dubious October surprise over Hunter Biden before the 2020 election. Nor did he explain why a private business did not have a right to improve the product it offers to its customers.
Autumn Johnson offered a similarly themed complaint in an Oct. 13 post:
According to The Intercept, Facebook has a secret blacklist of “dangerous individuals and organizations.”
Again, Johnson didn't explain why this was a bad thing.
Hall returned on Oct. 18 to huff that Facebook cracking down on "so-called hate speech" was also a bad thing:
Facebook has run right back to censorship gaslighting after having taken a metaphorical beating in the liberal press and from the Hill in recent weeks. The platform has let the world know that it has cracked down on so-called “hate speech” with extreme prejudice.
Hall then tried to explain why this was somehow a bad thing by attempting to portray the MRC as a victim:
Facebook’s history with content moderation is problematic at best. The platform has allowed its leftist-funded International Fact-Checking Network appointed fact-checkers to penalize conservative content that is demonstrably true.
But as ConWebWatch documented, the CDC data the MRC used was incomplete and, thus, did not support the partisan (and, in retrospect, false and dangerous) point it was trying to claim, that the Delta variant of COVID was nothing to worry about. Facebook was correct to flag the MRC's bogus graphic.
Hall devoted an Oct. 25 post to touting a Wall Street Journal article attacking Facebook:
Facebook management have reportedly been locking horns with their radical far-left workers over how far they can go to censor conservative speech online.
At no point did Hall dispute the Facebook employee's alleged description of Breitbart as peddling "fear, racism and bigotry," which means he's portraying that as mainstream conservative content. And he censored the fact that the Journal report also stated that "The documents reviewed by the Journal didn’t render a verdict on whether bias influences its decisions overall," and that it also found that Facebook employees were "alleging that Facebook is giving the right-wing publishers a pass to avoid PR blowback." Instead, Hall pushed a claim elsewhere in the article that Facebook management feared that cracking down on far-right content would be seen as, in Hall's words, "verified proof of anti-conservative sentiment or censorship within the company."
Nevertheless, the MRC loved the Journal story so much that its "Editor's Pick" that day was a writeup of the article at right-wing website RedState.