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Facebook Can't Afford to Totally Silence Conservatives... But Zuckerberg Has a Plan

Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP

Facebook’s own internal chat channels show employees obsessed with the “right” political slant, according to a new Wall Street Journal report—but what the report really reveals is the contradiction between the company’s business model and its political leanings.

Along, of course, with Facebook’s desire to use the law to lock in its current dominance.

Popular right-leaning Breitbart was the focus of Facebook employees’ ire at least as far back as last summer’s George Floyd riots, according to message boards seen by the Journal.

“Get Breitbart out of News Tab,” one employee posted on the company’s racial-justice message board.

That the company even has a racial-justice message board is a big tell, but here’s what happened next:

The employee’s message included screenshots of headlines on Breitbart’s website, such as “Minneapolis Mayhem: Riots in Masks,” “Massive Looting, Buildings in Flames, Bonfires!” and “BLM Protesters Pummel Police Cars on 101.”

The employee said they were “emblematic of a concerted effort at Breitbart and similarly hyperpartisan sources (none of which belong in News Tab) to paint Black Americans and Black-led movements in a very negative way,” according to written conversations on Facebook’s office communication system reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Many other employees chimed in to agree.

What happened after that might pleasantly surprise you, but it also reveals the company’s internal tensions in a very public way.

Facebook opted to keep Breitbart in the popular News Tab, with a company spokeswoman saying the Breitbart’s Facebook material “met its requirements, including the need to abide by its rules against misinformation and hate speech.”

So far, so good… for now. The WSJ’ report also revealed that when it comes to what political content to allow and what to ban, “more-senior employees often provide a check on agitation from the rank and file.”

The Young Turks want a company that promotes the woke, the brass wants to make money.

The tension between the two is exacerbated by simple demographics. Facebook’s users trend older than the social media median (TikTok and Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Instagram trend much younger). And older users tend to be more conservative.

That’s why, much to the Young Turks’ frustration, NewsWhip finds that “Right-wing sites are consistently among the best-performing publishers on the platform in terms of engagement.”

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Engagement is how Facebook generates the clicks that generate its money.

Now you know why Facebook management is willing to let their own employees get triggered by Breitbart, PJ Media, Townhall, etc.

Facebook can—and does—squash individual articles, actions that have cost PJ Media dearly over the last year or two. But for now, the company can’t afford to entirely shut down its conservative users from sharing conservative content.

What’s a wanna-be woke company to do?

Seek protection from Congress, naturally.

PJ Media’s own Richard Fernandez explains in Monday’s must-read column:

Mark Zuckerberg is offering the Beltway a deal. Give us a de facto monopoly and we’ll keep moderating things in your favor. “Essentially what Facebook wants is for Section 230 to be modified so that companies are held liable for illegal content on their platforms unless they can demonstrate that they have systems in place for identifying it.” Only the qualified—ahem “us”—need apply, and we’ll take care of you.

The unstated undertaking, Richard barely needed to add, “is that Big Tech will always break in the Beltway’s favor.”

Rent-seeking is as old as government itself, but I can’t think of an instance where it’s been attempted on such a scale. Last year, when CEO Mark Zuckerberg turned hundreds of millions of his Facebook dollars into a vote-generating machine for Democrats in swing states, it was basically a proof-of-concept for the very thing Fernandez wrote about today.

“We can deliver,” was Zuckerberg’s message to Washington progressives of both parties. Now it’s up to Washington to deliver something back.

Just remember that when Big Government and Big Business go to bed together, the offspring is tyranny.