Conservatives dominate Twitter and Facebook. So why are they complaining?

While conservatives have waged culture wars in Canada, they have complained that the media and information landscape in which they fight those battles is biased against them. It is mainly selfish fiction, given the editorial advice of our country’s newspapers. consequentlyThey, and often overwhelmingly, back the conservative party of the day.

But a couple of recent reports on built-in bias in our social media should make the rest of us sit up and take notice.

Facebook’s inherent sympathy for conservative causes is no secret to anyone who paid close attention to the 2020 presidential campaign. Political reported Last September, “the Facebook posts with the highest participation in the United States most days, measured by likes, comments, actions and reactions, come from conservative voices outside the mainstream media.”

An anonymous Facebook executive suggested this was because “right-wing populism is always more attractive.” But the truth, as former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen recently testified in a hearing in the US Congress, is that the company’s algorithm is biased towards content that fans the flames of hatred and anger. “I am deeply concerned that they have come up with a product that can alienate people from their real communities and isolate them in these rabbit burrows and filter bubbles,” he said.

Twitter, it seems, isn’t much better on this front. According to a recent internal study Of the content that works best on the platform, curators also enjoy a built-in advantage here. “In six out of seven countries, tweets posted by elected officials on the political right are algorithmically amplified more than the political left,” said Rumman Chowdhury of Twitter. saying the BBC. “The media on the right … see a greater amplification compared to those on the left.”

Stoking grievances

That also doesn’t seem to have anything to do with who is in power at the time. “For example,” the study noted, “in the UK amplification favors ruling conservatives, while in Canada the opposition Conservative Party of Canada is more amplified.” And where is this amplification effect most noticeable? Right here in Canada, where conservative voices are amplified nearly four times more (167 percent to 43 percent) than liberals.

The mainstream media have always favored the conservative right. Now Facebook and Twitter continue that tradition. #extremism #mediabias @maxfawcett writes for @natobserver

If you want to understand why this is important and the impact it can have on democracy, look no further than the recent Virginia gubernatorial election. In a state that leaned heavily on Joe Biden in 2020, the Democratic nominee was just defeated by Republican Glenn Youngkin, who spent much of the campaign talking about something not even taught in state schools: critical theory. of the breed (CRT). CRT examines how racism is embedded in everything from criminal justice and banking systems to labor and housing markets, but Republicans have successfully misrepresented it as an attack on whites and used it to stoke once again. the embers of white grievance politics that helped elect Donald Trump.

Biden’s growing unpopularity, along with the general ineptitude of Democrats in Congress, were clearly contributing factors here. But so was the constant diet of nonsense feeding Virginia voters about the distorted theory. As Former Obama Administration Staff Member and Co-Founder of Crooked Media, Dan Pfeiffer wrote, “There is not a single student taught CRT anywhere in the world, least of all in Virginia. Yet Youngkin was able to make a bogus problem very real to Virginia voters. ”

He was able to do it thanks to the combination of a right-wing media ecosystem that generates disinformation and a couple of hugely influential social media platforms that continue to amplify it. “The right can create an alternate reality and then offer solutions to false problems that people believe are the fault of the Democrats,” Pfieffer wrote. “The CRT probably played a lesser role than many experts suggest, but the fact that Youngkin was able to turn it into a problem should be a giant warning sign of what’s to come in 2022.”

More conflict ahead

It should also be a warning sign for progressives in Canada. After all, while conservatives here haven’t been able to recreate the kind of right-wing media ecosystem that thrives in America, it’s not for lack of trying. Just because our country’s right-wing representatives aren’t as adept at creating an alternative media universe as their American peers doesn’t mean they can’t improve on it, or that they aren’t doing so as we speak.

The implications here also go far beyond the realm of partisan politics. Whether it’s our collective response to climate change or our attitudes toward vaccines and other public health measures, these conversations are taking place more than ever on Twitter and Facebook. If we can’t trust them to elevate fact above fiction, we risk seeing the informational water we all drink poisoned by bad faith actors. And if conservatives can invent grievances entirely, as they have with CRT, and use social media to arm them against their political enemies, then we are heading into a new dark age.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can adjust their algorithms to elevate good information over bad, truth over lies, and experience over conspiracies. But so far, monetary incentives don’t seem to be heading them in that direction. If governments don’t step in and act early, they may face much bigger problems down the road.

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