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Friday Night Owls: With code changes, Facebook helped rightwing publishers and throttled the left

Democracy is a low priority for Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Night Owls, a themed open thread, appears at Daily Kos seven days a week


At Mother Jones, Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery write—Facebook Manipulated the News You See to Appease Republicans, Insiders Say:

Near the close of the first year of the Trump presidency, executives at Facebook were briefed on some major changes to its News Feed—the code that determines which of the zillions of posts on the platform any one of us is shown when we look at Facebook. The story the company has publicly told is that it was working to “bring people closer together” by showing us more posts from friends and family, and to prioritize “trusted” and “informative” sources of news. The changes would also reduce how much news most people see, and therefore decrease revenue for many publishers.

What wasn’t publicly known until now is that Facebook actually ran experiments to see how the changes would affect publishers—and when it found that some of them would have a dramatic impact on the reach of right-wing “junk sites,” as a former employee with knowledge of the conversations puts it, the engineers were sent back to lessen those impacts. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, they came back in January 2018 with a second iteration that dialed up the harm to progressive-leaning news organizations instead.

In fact, we have now learned that executives were even shown a slide presentation that highlighted the impact of the second iteration on about a dozen specific publishers—and Mother Jones was singled out as one that would suffer, while the conservative site the Daily Wire was identified as one that would benefit. These changes were pushed by Republican operatives working in Facebook’s Washington office under Vice President of Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan (who later made headlines for demonstratively supporting his friend Brett Kavanaugh during confirmation hearings). [...]

[Facebook spokesman Andy] Stone would not comment on the slide deck. But according to someone who has seen it, it contained bar graphs indicating how much reach various news organizations would gain or lose under the revamped algorithm. One chart showed the Daily Wire, a site headed by conservative pundit Ben Shapiro that routinely shares false claims and malignant ideas (being transgender is a “delusion,” abortion providers are “assassins,” US Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., is not “loyal to America”). Another graph showed Mother Jones, whose rigorously fact-checked investigative work has garnered many of journalism’s highest awards, including—just months before that Facebook presentation—being honored as Magazine of the Year at our industry’s version of the Academy Awards. [...] 

To be perfectly clear: Facebook used its monopolistic power to boost and suppress specific publishers’ content—the essence of every Big Brother fear about the platforms, and something Facebook and other companies have been strenuously denying for years. [...]

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QUOTATION

“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.”
          ~~Franklin D. Roosevelt, October 31, 1936

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At Daily Kos on this date in 2011—‘Flexible’ on federalism: Republicans and ‘states’ rights’:

No doubt you have heard about the conservative Republican demand for "limited federal government" and their deep respect for "the rights of the states." If you catch them in the right moment, you might even hear them speak of the Civil War in terms of a fight to protect "the rights of states," echoing Jefferson Davis himself: 

It has been a conviction of pressing necessity — it has been a belief that we are to be deprived in the Union of the rights which our fathers bequeathed to us —which has brought Mississippi to her present decision. She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races. They have no reference to the slave[.]
Yes the "Lost Cause" of "states rights" burns to this day, at least when it is convenient. But what about when it isn't? Well, like Roger Taney himself, whose trampling of "states rights" in Dred Scott is an oft-overlooked aspect of the case (one of the upshots of the decision would have been the inability of a state to prohibit slavery), conservative Republicans are more than capable of turning from deep concern for states rights to a deep confidence in federal government. Consider, for example, the Republican  proposal to reform state tort law by federal edict, the styled Medical Care Access Protection Act […]
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