The Washington, D.C., law firm where former Attorney General Eric Holder is a partner is assisting Facebook with its investigation into charges that the social media platform is biased against conservatives. Covington and Burling, where the former head of Obama’s Justice Department has been a partner since 2001, has begun contacting conservative organizations to see if they believe they’ve been discriminated against by Facebook.
One conservative nonprofit, which asked to remain anonymous, told PJM they received an email this week from an attorney at Covington and Burling asking about “issues” the organization may have had with Facebook. “As you may have read, Covington has been asked by Facebook to conduct a ‘bias audit,’ led by our senior colleague Senator Jon Kyl,” Ian Brekke wrote in the email. “Concerns have been raised by a number of conservatives about Facebook’s treatment of their organizations and how they have been disadvantaged by policies and practices undertaken by Facebook, either wittingly or unwittingly,” he added, noting that his firm’s role is to collect data rather than to “defend Facebook.”
The email went on to ask if the organization had experienced “anti-conservative bias” from Facebook. “If so, I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you or your relevant staff to document your experiences so we can include them in our report to Facebook. Even modest concerns or concerns that have been successfully addressed will be helpful to know about, as will your assessment of Facebook’s reputation among conservatives.”
He closed the email by asking to schedule a 30-minute call with relevant staff.
Axios reported in May that Republican former Sen. Jon Kyle (R-Ariz.) would be leading a team from Covington and Burling investigating conservative bias. According to Axios:
- Kyl will examine concerns about alleged liberal bias on Facebook, internally and on its services. They will get feedback directly from conservative groups and advise Facebook on the best way to work with these groups moving forward.
- The Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think tank, will convene meetings on these issues with Facebook executives. Last week the group brought in tech policy expert Klon Kitchen to host an event with Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert.
At the time of the announcement, Rob Bluey, vice president of communications at Heritage, said, “From what I’ve heard, it sounds encouraging that Facebook is taking steps to evaluate where things stand in the marketplace and hear concerns.”
While there has been no indication that Holder will be part of the Facebook investigation, the firm’s relationship with Obama’s left-wing hatchet man is nevertheless concerning. PJM’s Matt Margolis recently detailed some of the Obama Justice Department’s many corrupt actions:
From the earliest days of the Obama administration, the Obama/Holder/Lynch Justice Department protected political allies from justice. A slam-dunk case of voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party during the 2008 presidential election was inexplicably dropped, resulting in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights declaring in the summer of 2010 that there was evidence of “possible unequal administration of justice” by the Justice Department. Obama also blocked a corruption probe that implicated former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for bribery. He also illegally fired an inspector general who was investigating an Obama friend and donor. Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder worked in concert to protect each other. Holder would stonewall congressional investigations into Obama administration corruption and Obama would assert executive privilege to keep damaging information away from the eyes of investigators, such as crucial documents in the Fast and Furious investigation.
The Obama Justice Department also targeted Obama’s enemies. When conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza was prosecuted for making $20,000 in straw donations to a friend’s U.S. Senate campaign, many legal experts saw it as partisan selective prosecution, including liberal Harvard Law School professor and Obama supporter Alan Dershowitz. James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, was placed on a terrorist watch list in order to limit his international travel after posting a viral video showing himself dressed like a terrorist crossing back forth over the U.S. border with Mexico to demonstrate the horrible state of our nation’s border security.
Not only that, but Holder, in his capacity as an attorney for Covington and Burling, was tapped by California lawmakers in 2017 to battle the Trump administration on everything from immigration enforcement to health care to offshore oil drilling. The firm was reportedly being paid a $ 25,000 per month retainer to represent California in its war on President Trump’s policies.
While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given lip service to his commitment to rooting out bias at Facebook, it remains to been seen whether the left-wing entrepreneur is serious. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation into anti-conservative bias (and any remedial actions that result from it), ultimately there won’t be any way to know if the bias charges are legitimate and ongoing unless Zuckerberg makes Facebook’s algorithm available for public scrutiny—and he’s not going to do that. Zuckerberg refused to answer when EU lawmakers asked if he’d be “open to a discussion about whether it should open its secretive algorithms to the public to ensure transparency,” but it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever get a look at them not only because he doesn’t want users to see what’s going on behind the Facebook curtain but because of the legitimate concern that doing so would reveal inside trade secrets that would be highly valuable to potential competitors.
Ultimately, Facebook is working on the honor system. There’s no way to completely eliminate bias in an algorithm created by human programmers and the only checks and balances at Facebook are done by (mostly) left-leaning Facebook insiders who bring their own biases to work every day, just like the rest of us do.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Cody Doctorow explained in March:
Under ideal conditions, companies that do bad things with technology are shamed and embarrassed by bad press (norms); they face lawsuits and regulatory action (law); they lose customers and their share-price dips (markets); and then toolsmiths make add-ons for their product that allow us all to use them safely, without giving up our personal information, or being locked into their software store, or having to get repairs or consumables from the manufacturer at any price (code).
But “ideal conditions” don’t exist in the real world. In the end, the only real way to put a stop to Facebook’s biases is if users leave the platform in sufficient numbers to hurt the bottom line, or if Congress steps in with heavy-handed regulations. Both of those options leave a lot to be desired. Our Luddite-laden Congress barely understand how the Internet works, so anything they do will probably result in terrible unforeseen consequences that would curtail Internet freedom for everyone. And as far as Facebook’s bottom line is concerned, it’s quite possible the Silicon Valley enterprise is more concerned about social justice advocacy than profits. The left seems perfectly fine committing to a “get woke, go broke” strategy to achieve the ends they desire, namely a left-wing utopia.
The bottom line: Nobody’s going to fix Facebook’s baked-into-the-algorithm biases. If you decide to stick with Zuckerberg, bias is the price you’ll have to pay for using his free service.