Facebook Representative Says ‘Unconscious Bias’ Against Conservatives is Very Likely But Insists It’s Not Intentional at Senate Hearing

Facebook policy director Neil Potts testifies before a Senate Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee hearing titled “Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse.” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

A representative of the Facebook company told members of Congress at a Senate hearing that there is very likely an “unconscious bias” against conservatives at the popular social media company, but denied the existence of a purposeful political slant.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on Wednesday with two panels titled “Stifling Free Speech: Technology Censorship and the Public Discourse.” At issue was a series of incidents in which social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook had allegedly engaged in suppressing the voices of conservative commentators and filmmakers.

While some have argued that these are examples of ideologically-driven censorship, social media sites have responded that these were largely unintentional and were quickly corrected.

Neil Potts, public policy director at Facebook who was on the first panel, was asked by Senator Mike Lee of Utah about the “corporate culture” of Facebook in regards to political leanings.

Potts responded, as he had earlier in the hearing, that he did not believe there was a “political bias” at Facebook, but he was open to the idea of an unofficial slant.

“There is the room for unconscious bias that we do not recognize,” said Potts, adding that this contributed to their decision last year to approve the creation of an external investigation to determine if liberal bias existed. 

Potts said that Facebook is “a platform for a diversity of viewpoints” and that they have done “some research” and are “trying to do more research” regarding allegations of mistreatment of conservatives.

“You need to hear those anecdotes to collect the information, the data to actually see, to find which policies may be right for review,” explained Potts. “You can’t really review the policy without hearing where you think it’s being misapplied.”

“Is it the case that we over-enforce on pro-choice content? Or is it the case that we over-enforce on pro-life content?”

Regarding corporate culture, Potts acknowledged that at the Bay Area headquarters of Facebook “we would probably have more liberals or people who identify as Democrats than we do as Republicans.” Yet he also stressed that Facebook is “a global company.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski