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Why Mark Zuckerberg Should Have Told Conservatives To Screw Off

The Facebook summit got high marks from attendees but is just one instance of today's childish outrage culture.

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Immediately upon publication of an anonymously sourced Gizmodo story claimed that right-wing news sources were suppressed at Facebook, conservatives went into full mau-mau mode, attacking founder Mark Zuckerberg as a doctrinaire lefty whose social-media platform was obviously guilty of censoring viewpoints with which he and his minions disagree.

Far worse, conservative Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota quickly issued a

letter calling Zuckerberg on the carpet "pursuant…to the authority" of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Facebook had until "no later than May 26, 2016" to explain how it conducts its business. "In addition," wrote Thune, widely admired in conservative circles and constantly touted as presidential material, "please arrange for your staff, including employees responsible for the Trending Topics, to brief Committee staff on this issue."

Holy hell! A conservative politician demanding that a private business shlep to D.C. to spill its standard-operating procedures? It's the world turned upside down, now, isn't it? I thought only leftard Sandersnistas and Hillarybots acted in such ways!

Zuckerberg responded to brouhaha by hosting a meeting yesterday with a dozen-plus conservative pundits, activists, and movers-and-shakers. In a note on Facebook, Zuckerberg wrote,

I hosted more than a dozen leading conservatives to talk about how we can make sure Facebook continues to be a platform for all ideas across the political spectrum.

Silicon Valley has a reputation for being liberal. But the Facebook community includes more than 1.6 billion people of every background and ideology—from liberal to conservative and everything in between.

We've built Facebook to be a platform for all ideas. Our community's success depends on everyone feeling comfortable sharing anything they want. It doesn't make sense for our mission or our business to suppress political content or prevent anyone from seeing what matters most to them.

The response from attendees (who included Glenn Beck, pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, former senator and head of Heritage Foundation Jim DeMint, and more) was mostly positive.

For instance:

And Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin posted pics of herself smiling at the Facebook HQ.

But others are not assuaged, according to USA Today. American Conservative Union president Matt Schlapp, who refused to attend, vented, "They are not promising transparency…I want to see exactly how they treat conservatives and treat everyone." At The Federalist, Sean Davis pre-emptively dismissed the meeting as "a textbook con job."

Well, maybe. But conservatives aren't exactly wrapping themselves in glory on this score. That letter by Thune remains truly disturbing, especially given that the government has no more jurisdiction over Facebook than it does over, say, The Drudge Report or, for that matter, the content on Fox News. But beyond that, the collective conservative reaction to the uncorroborated accounts about Facebook's curation of Trending Topics at its news tab, is revealing. As I write in a new Daily Beast column,

Facebook, which has created a compelling alternative to dreary old meatspace, has nothing to apologize for….

Conservatives are outraged that Facebook might not treat, say, The Daily Caller, which is not allowed to criticize Fox News because its head honcho draws a paycheck there, as being on the same level as The New York Times. And that Facebook might put more weight on material appearing in USA Today than at the openly partisan Breitbart.com, whose latest big, objectively pro-Trump bombshell, "Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew," has started an internecine war among GOP loyalists that's the Twitter equivalent of the Castellammarese War.

Dismissing or downgrading those outlets isn't bias. It's good judgment….

Conservatives routinely castigate "socialists" (a term which is often indiscriminately applied to everyone to the left of John Boehner) as whiners and crybabies when in fact they can barely make it through a news cycle without some sort of Naomi Campbell-level freakout. But persistent claims of pervasive media bias against conservative points of view always and everywhere masks the rise of power of conservatives in the post-broadcast media age. The Drudge Report, which revolutionized media, is one example, as is Fox News, which routinely draws more than twice as many viewers as any other cable network. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been conservative (with some libertarian seasoning, for sure) for decades and talk radio is still dominated by characters such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage, none of whom was tempted to jump ship to the short-lived progressive network Air America. Then there's Glenn Beck's Blaze and his larger company Mercury Arts, which are full-fledged alternatives not just to the old broadcast networks but also to Fox News (which he left to strike out on his own). When Beck got tired of playing by other people's rules, "he pulled a Zuckerberg and created his own damn sandbox. Good on him."

And there's this:

Joining Beck at Facebook was former White House spokeswoman Dana Perino (a friendly acquaintance), who hasn't been cooling her jets since the end of the Bush years. She's a cohost of The Five on Fox News and a best-selling author. Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, is a regular New York Times columnist and poor old Jim DeMint is merely a former senator who heads up The Heritage Foundation, a think tank and political-action group that rakes in $112 million a year and rarely shows lower than third in any ranking of influential nonprofits.

Read the Beast column here.

The fact is that people who do good work generally prosper and those who are mediocre or half-assed don't. That's not to say that the only meaningful metric is the size of your audience or your budget. But every bit as much as lefties, conservatives and Republicans are stuck in a culture of complaint and super-quick to see vast and huge conspiracies arrayed to keep them from succeeding in their chosen fields (and yet, somehow, conservative Republicans run both houses on Congress and have a historically high level of representation at the state level).

At Facebook, Zuckerberg notes, "Donald Trump has more fans on Facebook than any other presidential candidate. And Fox News drives more interactions on its Facebook page than any other news outlet in the world."

All of us—whether left, right, or libertarian—are better off focusing on creating more and better content as the first, best way to build our audiences and influence.

NEXT: William Weld Isn't a Softcore Libertarian—He Just Isn't a Libertarian At All

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  3. Facebook had until “no later than May 26, 2016” to explain how it conducts its business.

    OR ELSE.

  4. That face(berg) ranks about a 9.7 on the backpfeifengesicht scale.

  5. So should Zuckerberg also told his customers to “fuck off” when he was telling them that the news was handled one way when in fact it was handled another way?

    1. Nick’s business advice helps explain why Reason Mag is constantly in the red.

    2. This affects you how exactly, DJF? You’re a customer of his? Juror? Attorney engaged in litigation for breach of contract? Or just a blowhard douche in the peanut gallery?

      1. How does it effect you, is Zuckerberg the person you think of before going to sleep?

      2. enough blowhard douche’s and guess what… you have a customer base. In the area of 40% of the US voting population will vote republican. That means that at least 30% of his customers would identify as conservative.

        my guess is his revenue base and stock holders would prefer if FB didn’t piss off at least 50,000,000 users. or you know, the peanut gallery.

        moron.

        1. Yep. For Facebook users = money.

          I don’t think the government should pass any laws to limit facebooks operating procedures, but shining the light of day on their biases so that facebook’s customers who are American citizens can choose to tell them to go to hell is a good thing.

  6. It’s the hysterics like Beck who whine.

    The people who get things done just nominate someone who’s willing to tell a biased media to screw off.

    1. I agree that in general, Beck is a whiner and sees himself as a victim in every single message that might impugn some conservative ideal. But this morning I heard him for about 5 minutes, and he was positively gushing about what a great guy Zuckerberg was for just giving Glenn an opportunity to feel important. No doubt he’s hoping for a boost in his ad revenue from eyeballs due to this momentary blip of increased attention too. In fact, a cynical person might think that’s the whole reason for the gushing…

      1. it doesn’t matter. Beck’s failure to board the train is going to tank his crappy network.

  7. Nick seems to have missed the point here. Unlike Drudge, Facebook is a publicly traded company with over a million shareholders that Zuckerberg, as Chairman of the Board, answers to. Indeed, Zuckerberg owns less than 30% of Facebook. The reason he invited in all those right wingers is because he doesn’t want Facebook to lose market value for his company, which is an entirely reasonable goal for a Chairman and CEO.

  8. RE: Why Mark Zuckerberg Should Have Told Conservatives To Screw Off

    Mark Zuckerberg should have told republicans and democrats to screw off and join the forces of good in the Libertarian party.
    But he won’t.
    He doesn’t have time to re-think how bad both parties are.
    Maybe he can hire someone to do that for him.
    He’s got the $ for it.

  9. Isn’t the problem that they supposedly had a neutral algorithm to advance news stories while, in practice, the algorithm was overridden by the personal preferences of employees? Facebook was misrepresenting what was going on so I can see why people are upset.

    Sure, FB is a private company and they can do what they want but they shouldn’t be fudging on the promoted news stories while saying that isn’t happening-it’s just shitty business practice. Nick knows this but his favorite bogeyman, conservatives, are on the receiving end so fuck ’em.

    1. Yes, consumer fraud is definitely part of this. There’s a securities fraud issue too, if Facebook loses stock value as a result of employees screwing with the algorithm. There’s the risk of loss of customers, etc., etc.

      But, never mind all that. Nick is a genius business man who should be telling Zuckerberg how to make money.

    2. That is exactly the problem.

      here for the Nth time, we have Reason Magazine take a shot at conservatives for rightfully noting that a liberal was doing something wrong.

      it’s like a disease with Reason. every story must be flipped to somehow criticize Republicans. I blame the fact that they moved to DC. I call it, “Districtitis”. Better names are invited for submission.

      1. We’ve seen over the last decade or so that a good number of Reason staff and management are really Lefty “civil libertarians,” i.e., welfare state types who want to empty out the prisons and cede realpolitik to the Russians, Iranians and Chinese. They pretty much hate social conservatives from middle America.

        1. I don’t think much of social cons myself but I know unfair when I see it. Nick needs to get away from the Daily Beast because he’s turning into just another biased asshole.

          1. Yep.

            Every article = Democrats are just misguided, Republicans are evil and conservatives are retarded.

      2. Gillespie is a whiny, passive-aggressive, left-liberal, Obama loving con artist hack, but Zuckerberg isn’t really doing anything wrong. He has the right to run his business how he wants, and he can even lie about it. When he does so, everyone else of course has the right to point out that he’s lying.

        Conservatives really should whine a lot less and follow in the footsteps of guys like Drudge and Rupert Murdoch a lot more. Learn about the strategies of Saul Alinsky, and then use them to take on the socialists and communists on their own turf. Create alternatives, fight back, punch them in the face, and kick them in the nuts until they cry.

        1. and he can even lie about it.

          ehhh…depends. If the lying had anything to do with soliciting advertisers, investors, or a handful of other things, it’s what we lawyers call “fraud,” and you can’t do that. Or, more accurately, you can do that but will wind up owing people a lot of money as a result.

          1. And since laws already exist to cover this possibility, Congress should STFU about it and let the parties involved and the courts handle it.

            1. Well you know being the ones who wrote the laws, I think Congress does have some basis to ask companies why they’re not adhering to them.

      3. Why not look at definitions.
        Conservative: mixed-economy statist favoring enforcement of religious laws, initiation of force.
        Fascist: mixed-economy statist favoring enforcement of religious laws, initiation of force.
        Libertarian: non-coercive, laissez-faire, separatist, against aggression.

        Yup. You wandered into the wrong saloon, GOP shill. Try Pastor Flash’s, The Landover Baptist Bar & Grill, or the Antichoice over at 666 Armageddon Ave. I hear good things about Little Adolph’s Burgomeister and Il Duce’s Winery.

        1. People pointing out Gillespie’s bullshit here doesn’t necessarily mean they’re GOP shills. I’m a libertarian that thinks bullshit articles like this one hurt our credibility with fair minded people.

          If you want to convince people stop being such a twat. If you set out to be a twat, good job.

        2. Remind me again which religious laws the PNF or Nazis favored enforcing? Certainly not the ones of the clergy that they jailed, persecuted, and eventually slaughtered en masse, I would suspect.

          Do you and Hihn share a cell apartment at the asylum retirement village?

    3. FB is a private company and they can do what they want

      Well, not really. They can’t commit fraud, for example.

  10. Someone should start a libertarian social media site. Subscribers could spend the day insulting each other’s intelligence and looking down their noses at the faux-libertarians.

    1. isn’t that just reason?

          1. Brakeless is Bootlicker to The Don, see its link…

  11. Jesus. It’s like you’re trying to force me to vote for Trump.

    1. Funny. Kind of feel the same way. Reading this makes Trumpers & Trumpettes seem semi-reasonable in their feelings about elites.

      1. Only pathetic loosers still use trains!! The Trump Campaign is a lavish private jet with a luxury spa and only the toppest-shelf alcohols served by a supermodel. It also has laser cannons because that’s how we get America to start winning again! What you wanted to be a looser and get on a train? Might as well support Crooked Hillary!

        Make trains great again by converting them into luxury fighter jets!!!

        1. The GOP needling of Ottoman berserkers spawned the Pentagon attack, hence the Transport Sozialist Arbeiterpartei, which is hell-bent on banning all manned flight. Similar religious fanatics in Japan and Europe have taken to attacking trains and subways with nerve gas and bombs. Soon we may have no choice but oxcars and donkeys.

    2. Yep, they keep telling us how harmless Hillary and Bernie are and how dangerous Donald is.

      Ya gotta just scratch your head, because H and B fail ALL the Libertarian purity tests….

  12. Thank you for that helpful and hilarious alt-text, Gillespie!

  13. As someone who works at a Silicon Valley company up the street from Facebook, I have no doubt that the stories of institutional bias are correct. I have seen the internal email lists of these people, who by and large live inside a giant millionaire-filled echo chamber. My understanding of their news rating system and their machine learning algorithms leads me to believe that- even without a conscious effort of management- that bias can be insinuated in their trending.

    On the one hand, it is absolutely deplorable that a congressional body is getting involved in this. It is ridiculous.

    However, there is nothing wrong with the other conservatives making hay about this. Facebook has insisted on their non-bias and the charges are pretty serious. CPAC has long complained that they are not able to get the same trending results from Facebook that they get from Twitter, despite having similar signals for likes/shares/etc. While Zuck is within his rights to tell them to fuck off, Gillespie is wrong to say it is a good idea. If Zuck wants to avoid alienating half the country, he is correct to get in front of this ASAP.

    1. “On the one hand, it is absolutely deplorable that a congressional body is getting involved in this. It is ridiculous.”

      Generally, I would agree, except for the fact that Facebook has advertised its search engine as a facially-neutral algorithm. Now it looks like that turns out to be fraudulent. If we are going to have Congressional oversight over commerce, this would seem to be in-bounds, at least from an information-gathering standpoint.

      1. I think the courts are probably better positioned to deal with it, personally. Congressional hearings to be either (1) public grandstanding for the benefit of constituents or (2) desperate Congress members and staffers pathetically fawning over some idol and making themselves feel important by getting to be close to him.

        1. I think the courts are probably better positioned to deal with it, personally.

          ^This.

          First of all, it is not clear to me that Facebook as a whole was committing fraud- that is, knowingly misleading customers. As I noted in my previous post, it could just be peoples’ natural bias at play. Machine Learning Algorithms are dependent on their trainers and that can cause problems. If you are a raging liberal, the fact that a BLM article isn’t trending might be a bug to you. If you are asked to score an article for quality, Conservative talking points may rate somewhat lower- even if you think you are being fair. This is the natural human condition.

          I definitely think there is a problem, it’s just not one of fraud, nor one that couldn’t be handled in the courts without diverting Congress from other activities.

          1. Fair enough, it’s no clear — which is why it’s in-bounds for Congress to be asking questions, particularly when they are charged with regulatory oversight.

        2. or (3) a diversion for the plebes while the rest of the thieves figure out the best way to screw us yet again without getting noticed.

          1. Indeed. Of course, that scenario is kinda a given under either of two I described..

        3. Courts may or may not be better positioned. I say this an attorney who has dealt with securities fraud litigation.

          In any event, Congress is charged with oversight of securities fraud regulation. This seems to be in-bounds as far as an area of inquiry.

    2. Not to mention, Zuckerberg has entered the political arena.

      Once you step onto the sand, don’t be surprised if a couple of pissed-off lions are next.

    3. So, that bad bad Markie is kicking sand in the poor little God’s Own Prohibitionist party’s face. Shame! There… all better now?

  14. If Zuck wants to avoid alienating half the country, he is correct to get in front of this ASAP.

    Good point. But I think a lot of “knee-jerk” leftists* (how I would classify Zuckerberg) have two views of conservatives which stem from the bubble in which they live (i) there really aren’t that many of them and/or (ii) they’re really dumb so there’s no way to engage with them.

    *I fully accept there are knee-jerk conservatives who live in bubbles, but they’re not the main focus of this story.

    1. Should have been a reply to Overt @ 1:15pm

  15. This article has been deemed too stupid for comment.

  16. I wonder if Nick would be posting this if, for example, it the major social media provider (let’s say Dell) was secretly modifying what was supposed to be a facially-neutral algorithm to prioritize pro-War and pro-Mandatory-Minimums search results in its search engine.

    1. You don’t actually wonder that! but the point is well taken, nevertheless.

  17. Have we figured out which kind of terrorist hijacked an Egyptian plane yet? I am sure there’s just a terribly long list of suspects. I bet it’s those rascally “Christian terrorists” certain commenters think exist.

    1. Lutherans. Bound to be the Lutherans. Those bastards.

    2. Naw. The Methodist White Terror and Wizened Christian Temperance Union operated behind the skirts of prohibition agents, and with the notable exception of Robert Lewis Dear “Warrior For the Babies,” antiabortion fanatics prefer to whine to politicians to send police to bully women and doctors… much like today’s religious conservatives sending the feds to fully that big bad Markie Zuckerberg. What a mess of spineless jellyfish…

  18. “Talking to commentators like S.E. Cupp, whose relevance to conservatives under 40 is equal to Google Plus’s relevance to social media”, said MILO

    1. While I agree with that statement, I am more than a little weirded out by Trump supporters’ obsession with cuckolding.

  19. The fact that Congress is holding hearings on this is a disgrace. No argument there.

    On the other hand, the hell with Zuckerberg. If you want to promote one side over the other, knock yourself out – just don’t try to pull this “Oh, we use an impartial algorithm” bullshit. Own your advocacy.

    1. The algorithm became sentient! I can’t help it if robots determine that progressivism is the correct worldview!

    2. “The fact that Congress is holding hearings on this is a disgrace.”

      If Facebook didn’t want to be subject to Congressional hearings on something like this, then they should have stayed a privately-held company, rather than have gone public.

      1. They should, as a matter of politeness, if possibly not respect, show up on time in respectable attire.

        They also should make the point firmly and with absolutely no hint of compromise, that they will edit Facebook reporting as they choose, as is their first amendment right.

        The fact they are a publicly held company matters no more than it matters that the New York Times is a publicly held company. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, publishing on the Internet cannot reasonably be thought meaningfully different from publishing on paper.

  20. the government inquisition ship has sailed. make the leftards live by their own rules!

  21. Point of the article seems to generally be (after a whole lot of distilling…) that you’re wasting your time if you try to allay the outrage of people who are just acting outraged for a living.

    But there’s a real value in a business remaining impartial on politics. Particularly when they’re already the leading product in their market and can only lose customers by picking sides.

    1. “Point of the article seems to generally be (after a whole lot of distilling…) that you’re wasting your time if you try to allay the outrage of people who are just acting outraged for a living.”

      So Gillespie is leaving Dalmia out in the cold.

  22. You miss a big point Nick. I absolutely agree that Facebook can operate however it wants, including by discriminating against conservatives. Being a publicly-traded company they certainly owe a duty to a lot of shareholders, but if only the liberals are holding Zuckerberg’s feet to the fire, there’s not much you can do. And it’s scary that any Republicans are entertaining the idea of investigating Facebook’s business practices just because they feel offended — nanny-statism is infectious, I guess.

    BUT in the situations where Facebook has contracts with certain parties (like Steven Crowder), and they’re stating that the advertisement scheme works a certain way while actually being run differently, then Facebook and Zuckerberg are acting in bad faith and should be held accountable. Crowder has had a history of problems with Facebook, with FB claiming that he hasn’t paid them (despite plenty of evidence to the contrary) and FB refusing to pay him when they’re supposed to as a result. The revelation that they’ve lied about their algorithm and have people arbitrarily choosing which stories or sites are being promoted suggests an anti-conservative bias, which makes it look more and more like they’ve been lying about or deliberately mishandling the financial transactions with Crowder. If this is happening to other parties, FB is opening themselves up to having their business practices scrutinized.

  23. Conservatives–mixed-economy zealots for religious laws–are the powers that keep the Libertarian Party off the ballot in states that seek to violate the 1st and 13th and repeal the 14th Amendment. Facebook will, I’ll wager, learn the error of kowtowing to nationalsocialist fanatics.

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  25. Conservatives are outraged that Facebook might not treat, say, The Daily Caller, which is not allowed to criticize Fox News because its head honcho draws a paycheck there, as being on the same level as The New York Times.

    Good point. I mean, the NYT is certainly beyond reproach as it regards the financial interests of its ownership influencing their reporting. How do these scummy little interlopers dare presume to compare themselves to the paper of record. Everybody, libertarians especially, knows that entrenched legacy institutions are superior.

    1. The funniest part is that the journalistic community of which Gillespie so desperately wants to be a part and the old media institutions he so desperately defends hold him and his (to them) fringe new media outlet in equal esteem with the conservative pundits and blogs at issue here. There’s no idiot quite like a useful idiot.

      1. Shouldn’t Nick have told Preet Bharara to fuck off? Oh dear…

    2. Both Facebook and the New York Times, not to say the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and others, are free to edit and slant their news in whatever way they wish. Those who don’t like what one or another of them publishes are free to ignore them if they wish, thereby avoiding the possibility that their preferred echo chamber might be a bit less than perfectly correct.

  26. My reflexive thought was that Facebook was run by a bunch of lefties. Afer about ten seconds of conscious thought I concluded Facebook is, among other things, a publisher entitled under the first amendment as much as any other to publish whatever it wants within the established limits of civil and criminal law. The public whiners have no legitimate basis to hold them to a different standard.

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