Study calls conservative claims of tech censorship "a form of disinformation"
Researchers at New York University have released a new study that dispels the allegations made repeatedly by conservative lawmakers and members of the conservative media that Big Tech companies intentionally censor their viewpoints.
Why it matters: For years, Republicans have used unproven allegations of censorship as a threat to regulate tech companies or demonize them as enemies of conservatives.
Details: The report shows evidence that conservative politicians and media outlets received just as much, if not more, interaction on social platforms than their liberal counterparts.
- "Conservatives are drawn to the established platforms for the same reason liberals are: That’s where you can reach the largest audiences and enjoy the benefits of the network effect," the researchers write.
- "And as much as they condemn supposed social media favoritism, conservatives appear to relish wielding the bias-claim cudgel, even though it’s based on distortions and falsehoods,” they conclude.
- The report credits financial support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, which funds journalism and anti-disinformation projects, and also thanks various staffers from Google, Twitter and Facebook.
By the numbers: The report points out how Trump dominated Biden in Facebook engagement from Sept. 3 to Nov. 3 of last year, with Trump having 87% of 307 million total interactions and Biden having only 13%.
- Trump also had 654 million total Facebook interactions, more than any U.S. elected official, from Jan. 1 to Nov. 3, 2020.
- Fox News and Breitbart far outperformed other news outlets on Facebook interactions between Jan. 1 and Nov. 3, 2020.
- Citing numbers from Transparency Tube, the report says the left and the right get roughly the same number of views on YouTube.
Be smart: The mainstream press and tech companies have long tried to assure everyday consumers that these allegations are unsubstantiated, but conservatives have thus far been successful in planting that narrative.
- A Pew Research Center poll in August 2019 found that most Americans think social media platforms censor political viewpoints.
The big picture: "Silencing" and censorship will be to the modern Republican Party what Big Government was in the '90s — "an all-purpose target designed to inflame feelings of victimhood," Axios' Mike Allen noted last week.
The bottom line: “The claim of anti-conservative animus [on the part of social media companies] is itself a form of disinformation: a falsehood with no reliable evidence to support it," the NYU researchers write.