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Internal Facebook investigation found 'concerns' regarding its treatment of conservatives

The report says that there is still 'significant work' to be done 'to satisfy the concerns we heard from conservatives'

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

Initial results from a probe commissioned by Facebook found that the social network still has to do "significant work" in order "to satisfy the concerns" of conservatives.

What report?

Facebook tapped former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to lead the investigation. Kyl retired from the U.S. Senate in 2012 but was appointed by Arizona Gov. Greg Ducey to take the seat left vacant by the death of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He held this seat only for part of a year, before Ducey replaced him with former Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) in December. Kyl had said from the start that his return to the Senate would be only temporary.

Kyl is working on this project with a team from the Covington and Burlington law firm. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Tuesday, Kyl said that Facebook "placed no restrictions on how I could conduct my work."

Facebook has been repeatedly accused of skewing its algorithms against conservatives by relying on liberal organizations like the Poynter Institute and the Southern Poverty Law Center to determine what qualifies as accurate reporting. In May, Poynter included TheBlaze and several other right-leaning websites on an "Index of Unreliable News Websites"

What did the report say?

Kyl and his team interviewed 133 "key conservative organizations, individuals, and lawmakers who either use, study, or have the potential to regulate Facebook" since May 2018. They found that conservatives "fear that these mechanisms" that Facebook uses to drive its algorithms "prioritize content in ways that suppress their viewpoints."

This investigation looked at, among other things, how Facebook manages its advertising policies and on the changing nature of the social media giant's community standards regarding things like "hate speech."

"Facebook has recognized the importance of our assessment and has taken some steps to address the concerns we uncovered," the report promised. "But there is still significant work to be done to satisfy the concerns we heard from conservatives."

Kyle said that Facebook "made several changes that are responsive to our findings" and that "more are being considered."

What happens now?

Facebook's investigation into potential bias is still ongoing. In a blog post on Tuesday, Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg wrote that this was only "the first stage of an ongoing process and Senator Kyl and his team will report again in a few months' time."

Clegg said that the company is trying to "strike the right balance" as it tries to "err on the side of free speech" while also banning "content that might encourage offline harm or is intended to intimidate, exclude or silence people" and limiting the influence of "debunked hoaxes and clickbait."

The company also said it had been hiring additional staff to work specifically to solve these problems.

One last thing…
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