Joe Pinkstone | The Daily Mail | Source URL
An ex-Facebook employee claims the social media platform is censoring content from some conservative publishers and commentators.
The California-based social media giant has been accused of using software manipulation or 'special features' to 'deboost' traffic to certain sites and individuals, especially near elections.
Facebook has denied the allegations - and claims the ex-employee was fired a year ago for 'breaking multiple employment policies'. The individual now works for the publication that published the exposé - Project Veritas, a right-wing activist group.
The unnamed ex-employee was hired as a content review analyst in Facebook's intellectual property department and was responsible for copyright and trademark claims.
But during her employment at the tech firm, she says, she found a feature known as 'actiondeboostlivedistribution' attached to some conservative media outlets.
She claimed this is responsible for throttling the circulation for the users it is attached to and directly interferes with posts. It is capable of disabling notifications and shares for example.
The strategy also includes 'drastically limited bandwidth,' auto logouts for people trying to upload content and posts failing to upload without any valid reason.
She revealed this was one of the 'methods of suppression' Facebook employed to prevent the widespread distribution of some media.
A live video would be branded ActionDeboostLiveDistribution by Facebook and this would suppress the content.
The activist group also claims there is no evidence that liberal outlets are subjected to the same rules.
It claims this is evidence of anti-conservative bias.
Facebook's response is that this is not true and instead the violation and subsequent suppression is as a result of broadcasting non-live videos and claiming they are live.
This is a violation of Facebook's terms and conditions.
The whistle-blower claims the label would be applied to 'several different conservatives pages'.
She revealed she has found evidence of it on the sites of Mike Cernovich, Steven Crowder and the Daily Caller.
Mike Cernovich is a prominent right-leaning social media personality and serves as a host on InfoWars, the show operated by Alex Jones which was banned on Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify last year.
Steven Crowder is a conservative political commentator in the US and Canada and the Daily Caller is a conservative American news and opinion website.
Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe, who narrates the video, said Facebook's practices are intended to affect right-wing users the hardest.
Mr O'Keefe has a chequered history with video production when his previous work on ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and NPR (National Public Radio) were found to be inaccurate.
He was also arrested in 2010 when he, along with three accomplices, tried to break into a federal building disguised as a telephone repairman.
He was later sentenced to three years of probation and 100 hours of community service.
Facebook has refuted the allegations and says the ex-employee, who collected the information out of curiosity and not as part of her job, skewed its internal protocols.
'We fired this person a year ago for breaking multiple employment policies and using her contractor role at Facebook to perform a stunt for Project Veritas,' a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge.
'Unsurprisingly, the claims she is making validate her agenda and ignore the processes we have in place to ensure Facebook remains a platform to give people a voice, regardless of their political ideology.)'
Facebook also stands accused by the ex-employee of targeting moderate right-leaning individuals and groups by labelling specific terms as offensive and censoring them.
These include, she claims, phrases such as SJM and MSM for social justice media mainstream media - which are used regularly by independent conservative outlets but not by left-leaning groups.
The insider stated in the Project Veritas interview : 'It was clearly kind of designed… aimed to be the right-wing meme culture that's become extremely prevalent in the past few years.
'And some of the words that appeared on there were, using words like SJW and MSM, the New York Times doesn't talk about the MSM. The independent conservative outlets are using that language.'
Project Veritas also posted online documents supporting the insider.
The anonymous whistle-blower added: 'They believe the election of Donald Trump was a fluke, it shouldn't have happened.'
The Facebook insider believes a data science manager at the company, called Seiji Yamamoto, is the mastermind behind the 'dethrottling'.
She claims his 'news feed reduction strategy' stems from Mr Yamamoto's concerns over hate speech and content near the perimeter.
Mr Yamamoto's report also featured a line referred to the process of 'red-pilling', something it referred to as a 'destructive behaviour'.
Project Veritas says this term is a phrase indicating 'bluntly showing the truth'.
Mr Yamamoto's accused these sites of converting 'normies' to their point of view and Project Veritas called these people 'apolitical or uninformed people'.
The internal documents do shed light on some of the social media firm's attitudes towards content management.
One of its presentations dating back to 2017 suggested a 'Twilight Zone' for suspected trolls where activities online are hampered by what appear to be bugs.
Issues logging in, mysterious diversions to the homepage and problems logging in are all part of this dark region on the fringes of Facebook.
Another tactic Facebook considered employing was the use of naming and shaming.
For example, threatening to inform Facebook friends when someone has posted something 'egregious'.
It would potentially show a message that reads similar to 'John Smith's account has been suspected for 7 days because he shared hate speech in [a group].'
It adds: 'Fear of being outed as a miscreant is what regulates behaviour in real like and we should re-introduce that to the online world.'
FACEBOOK'S PRIVACY DISASTERS
December 2018: Facebook comes under fire after a bombshell report discovered the firm allowed over 150 companies, including Netflix, Spotify and Bing, to access unprecedented amounts of user data, such as private messages.
Some of these 'partners' had the ability to read, write, and delete Facebook users' private messages and to see all participants on a thread.
It also allowed Microsoft's search engine, known as Bing, to see the name of all Facebook users' friends without their consent.
Amazon was allowed to obtain users' names and contact information through their friends, and Yahoo could view streams of friends' posts.
As of last year, Sony, Microsoft, and Amazon could all obtain users' email addresses through their friends.
September 2018: Facebook disclosed that it had been hit by its worst ever data breach, affecting 50 million users - including those of Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Attackers exploited the site's 'View As' feature, which lets people see what their profiles look like to other users.
he unknown attackers took advantage of a feature in the code called 'Access Tokens,' to take over people's accounts, potentially giving hackers access to private messages, photos and posts - although Facebook said there was no evidence that had been done.
The hackers also tried to harvest people's private information, including name, sex and hometown, from Facebook's systems.
Facebook said it doesn't yet know if information from the affected accounts has been misused or accessed, and is working with the FBI to conduct further investigations.
However, Mark Zuckerberg assured users that passwords and credit card information was not accessed.
As a result of the breach, the firm logged roughly 90 million people out of their accounts earlier today as a security measure.
March 2018: Facebook made headlines earlier this year after the data of 87 million users was improperly accessed by Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy.
The disclosure has prompted government inquiries into the company's privacy practices across the world, and fueled a '#deleteFacebook' movement among consumers.
Communications firm Cambridge Analytica had offices in London, New York, Washington, as well as Brazil and Malaysia.
The company boasts it can 'find your voters and move them to action' through data-driven campaigns and a team that includes data scientists and behavioural psychologists.
'Within the United States alone, we have played a pivotal role in winning presidential races as well as congressional and state elections,' with data on more than 230 million American voters, Cambridge Analytica claims on its website.
The company profited from a feature that meant apps could ask for permission to access your own data as well as the data of all your Facebook friends.
This meant the company was able to mine the information of 87 million Facebook users even though just 270,000 people gave them permission to do so.
This was designed to help them create software that can predict and influence voters' choices at the ballot box.
The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump.
This information is said to have been used to help the Brexit campaign in the UK.
It has also suffered several previous issues.