Columns

Blackburn: Facebook’s 20,000 Content Reviewers Bring ‘Bias to Work’

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) leaves the House chamber on Capitol Hill on Oct. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said Facebook’s 20,000 content reviewers bring their political “bias to work” and have blocked content that’s not related to issues such as terrorism.

Blackburn mentioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Silicon Valley an “extremely left-leaning place” during his recent Senate hearing under questioning from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“We don’t ask people their political affiliation when they are hired,” Zuckerberg said at the hearing.

Blackburn said Congress should examine “guardrails” that could be put in place to prevent content that might offend certain people for political reasons from being blocked.

“He has 15-20,000 content reviewers and managers. So one of the things we have to realize is they bring that bias to work and then, as they develop an algorithm, how are they manipulating that algorithm?” Blackburn said during a Family Research Council discussion last Tuesday, “Losing Our Voices: Who Owns Free Speech on the Internet?”

Blackburn, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said Zuckerberg has explained that Facebook adjusts their algorithms for topics such as terrorism.

“As I pointed out, Diamond and Silk is not terrorism. They have a great show and I think they do a great job,” she said, referring to Facebook labeling videos posted by Trump supporters Diamond and Silk as “unsafe to the community” on Facebook.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) announced today that Diamond and Silk will testify at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday on “Filtering Practices of Social Media Platforms.”

“This gets into that issue of, is this something that offends or is it something that is wrong? To someone who comes from an extremely liberal setting, they may be offended by my Twitter ad or our individual in Michigan who is running and had his ads taken down and blocked or some of the churches or even movies, Christian movies, I’m Not Ashamed, that movie about Columbine. YouTube ended up blocking their trailer,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn revealed that another hearing on examining the “manipulation” of the algorithms that Facebook uses is in the works.

“Right now, I can’t tell you we have a light touch solution we’re looking at. Are we conducting oversight? Absolutely,” she said, addressing the algorithms Facebook uses for content monitoring.

In the meantime, Blackburn said Congress should pass the Open Internet Preservation Act, which deals with blocking and throttling. If passed, the bill would prevent “broadband internet access service providers from: (1) blocking lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; and (2) impairing or degrading lawful internet traffic on the basis of internet content, application, or service, or use of a non-harmful device.”

“No blocking. No throttling. The Open Internet Preservation Act will ensure the Internet is a free and open space. This legislation is simple; it provides light-touch regulation so companies can invest and innovate, and make sure our internet is up to 21st century standards,” Blackburn wrote in December after introducing the bill.