On Monday, Politico reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had hosted “informal talks and small, off-the-record dinners with conservative journalists, commentators and at least one Republican lawmaker.” Cue the outrage.
The dinners in the Politico story should comfort conservatives who have seen Facebook ban, block, and otherwise stifle conservative speech. Zuckerberg is willing to sit down with conservatives to hear out our complaints. So far, he has met with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, radio host Hugh Hewitt, CNN commentator Mary Katharine Ham, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro, former Washington Free Beacon editor Matt Continetti, Townhall editor and Fox News contributor Guy Benson, Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell, and Washington Examiner chief political correspondent Byron York.
Tragically, Politico‘s Natasha Bertrand and Daniel Lippman minimized conservative concerns about Facebook censorship. “Allegations that Facebook censors conservatives, however, have gone largely unsubstantiated—conservative publications including Fox, Breitbart, and Shapiro’s Daily Wire were among the top publishers on Facebook as of this past May, according to data from the social media tracking firm Newswhip,” they wrote.
The fact that conservative publications do well on Facebook does not mean the company has never censored conservative speech. Many conservatives and Christians have found their accounts suspended over mainstream conservative and Christian ideas. The platform suspended global evangelist Franklin Graham during Christmas week for a two-year-old post disagreeing with transgenderism. Christian scholar Robert Gagnon has found himself banned multiple times, and a German historian was suspended for saying Islam had little role in German history. Facebook has censored pro-life ads, blocked quotes from St. Augustine as “hate speech,” pulled Trump campaign ads, and more.
Zuckerberg’s meetings with conservatives do not reveal a bias on his part. Last year, Facebook released the results of an in-depth “civil rights audit” performed with various liberal groups. In August, it released the results of a similar bias audit involving conservative groups. It does seem that Facebook really is trying to negotiate the painfully partisan ground of American politics in good faith. For instance, the company stands against hate, but took a political risk in denying the far-left “hate group” smears of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The platform recently adopted a new policy exempting political ads from fact-checkers. This prompted a stern rebuke from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who published a Facebook ad deliberately spreading fake news — just to tempt Zuckerberg into violating his policy. Warren’s ad claimed that Zuckerberg had endorsed Trump.
Warren’s ad later explained that her opening sentence is not true. “But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform — and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters. If Trump tries to lie in a TV ad, most networks will refuse to air it. But Facebook just cashes Trump’s checks. Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once. Now, they’re deliberately allowing a candidate to intentionally lie to the American people. It’s time to hold Mark Zuckerberg accountable — add your name if you agree.”
Facebook hit back on Saturday night, comparing its policy on candidate speech to that of the Federal Communications Commission.
“The FCC doesn’t want broadcast companies censoring candidates’ speech,” the company tweeted. “We agree it’s better to let voters—not companies—decide.”
Similarly, Zuckerberg responded to the outrage about his meetings with conservatives by supporting neutrality and civility in politics.
“There’s some press today discussing dinners I’ve had with conservative politicians, media and thinkers. To be clear, I have dinners with lots of people across the spectrum on lots of different issues all the time. Meeting new people and hearing from a wide range of viewpoints is part of learning,” Zuckerberg posted on Facebook. “If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do!”
Americans really should learn from one another, rather than demonizing any dissent from their viewpoints as evil or stupid. Yet many prominent liberals responded to this suggestion of open dialogue with anger… at Facebook.
“Delete Facebook” started trending on Twitter.
Liberal podcaster Bridget Todd swore off the platform as “hateful” and “dangerous,” saying the idea of posting content on Facebook “makes me want to vomit.” She characterized the content on Facebook as “racism” and “political propaganda.”
Actress Yvette Nicole Brown shared the story about Zuckerberg’s meeting with conservatives, saying that these meetings should encourage people to “delete Facebook.”
“I stopped actively posting on [Facebook] in 2016 after it was revealed that it helped elect the orange fecal smear,” the actress tweeted. “Now [delete Facebook] seems like the best course of action. Yes, I’m still on [Instagram] but I feel it does less to push the trump agenda. Less older white supremacists.”
I stopped actively posting on @Facebook in 2016 after it was revealed that it helped elect the orange fecal smear. Now #DeleteFacebook seems like the best course of action. Yes, I’m still on IG but I feel it does less to push the trump agenda. Less older white supremacists. 👌🏻 https://t.co/D5jOTqjyAQ
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) October 14, 2019
LGBT activist Rob Gill accused Zuckerberg of influencing the 2020 election for money. “Facebook intentionally influencing an election…because..money. I smell a congressional subpoena heading to Mark Zuckerberg,” he tweeted.
Fernand Amandi, CEO of the media firm Bendixen & Amandi International and a political science professor at Miami University, tweeted the Politico story, calling it “another reason you need to [delete Facebook] immediately.”
— Fernand R. Amandi (@AmandiOnAir) October 14, 2019
Ironically, earlier on Monday, Amandi also tweeted an answer to the question, “Are White Evangelicals a threat to democracy in the United States?” He interviews a “Religious Right expert” who twists evangelical Christian theology to suggest that conservative Christians just want the world to burn — that’s why they support Donald Trump.
— Fernand R. Amandi (@AmandiOnAir) October 14, 2019
Influential liberals like Fernand Amandi are exactly the kind of people who need to understand that people who disagree with them are not evil. Conservative Christians do not just want to see the world burn: I should know, I’m one of them! Most of us do not oppose liberal policies because we think global warming and war in the Middle East are the way to spark Armageddon (Jesus explicitly said no man knows the day or the hour — Matthew 24:36). Rather, we are rightly skeptical after decades of failed climate predictions. We don’t want war in the Middle East, but we do care about the persecuted minorities there, especially our fellow Christians.
Perhaps if people like Amandi took Zuckerberg’s advice and actually sat down with a reasonable evangelical Christian, they would learn something.
Instead, Amandi and liberals like him seem to have decided to bolt at the very first sign of a social media platform willing to listen to both sides of the political spectrum.
Liberal intolerance was a major catalyst for Trump’s election in the first place. The president didn’t win because Facebook somehow pulled the strings for him. He won because liberals demonized conservatives so much that conservatives went with a fighter, despite his character flaws. It seems the left is bent on proving to conservatives that they were right in 2016: liberals really are out to destroy them, and they need someone who fights dirty to defend them.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.