- The Washington Times - Monday, June 13, 2016

Less than a month after the Facebook summit between founder Mark Zuckerberg and leading conservatives, the tense relationship between Silicon Valley and conservatives has taken a turn for the worse.

There was more uproar on the right Monday over moves by two top websites to suppress information about the Orlando mass shooter’s ties to the Islamic State, just days after Google was accused of burying negative stories about presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Even as companies like Facebook and Google deny any institutional political bias, conservatives like Less Government’s Seton Motley say that Silicon Valley’s liberal titans apparently can’t help themselves.

“These are left-wing guys,” said Mr. Motley, a longtime Silicon Valley critic. “There are very few non-left-wingers in Silicon Valley. [PayPal co-founder] Peter Thiel is one of the few exceptions. You’ve got to be aware.”

Facebook found itself back in the spotlight Monday after anti-jihad activist Pamela Geller said that two of her pages were deleted in the aftermath of Sunday’s horrific Orlando massacre, in which a pro-Islamic State gunman slaughtered 49 people at a popular gay nightclub before being killed by a police tactical unit.

Ms. Geller posted a message Sunday from Facebook saying her page Stop Islamization of America violated the company’s ban on “groups that are hateful, threatening or obscene.” She also said that a Facebook account in her own name had been frozen for 30 days.

Both pages were operating again by Monday afternoon, a day after Ms. Geller asked SIOA’s 57,000 followers to “politely request reinstatement of our group.” Facebook did not immediately return a request Monday for comment.

“It is not hateful, obscene, or threatening to oppose jihad terror such as we saw in Orlando last night,” Ms. Geller told Breitbart. “Truth is not hateful or obscene. What is hateful, obscene and threatening is that Facebook is moving to silence everyone who speaks honestly about the motivating ideology behind such attacks.”

As for Mr. Zuckerberg’s assurances that Facebook is not biased against conservatives, “They’re utterly and absolutely hollow,” she said.

Meanwhile, the news aggregator website Reddit, which bills itself as a bastion of free speech, was accused of censorship by users who said moderators blocked threads on the Orlando massacre.

“Now that I think about it, this might be the biggest purging I’ve ever seen on Reddit,” one user wrote in the website’s r/news thread on Sunday.

Reddit administrators eventually issued a statement as anger spread throughout the community.

“Reddit gives moderators a great deal of freedom to operate their subreddits how they feel is appropriate. In a rapidly emerging and volatile situation, a number of things can happen: sometimes new moderators get blindsided, small teams get overwhelmed, or tired and frustrated mods make bad choices. I want you to know that the admins are aware of the concerns that have been expressed,” the statement read.

One moderator had responded to criticism from users with “kill yourself.”

“Right now, I simply ask everyone to be patient and to give the admins and the entire /r/news moderator team a chance to talk privately and investigate what happened. Regardless of your feelings on the decisions made, everyone involved is (to my knowledge) a human. A little respect and compassion go a long way,” said the statement.

While conservatives typically lead the complaints about pro-liberal bias, that wasn’t the case with last week’s explosive report alleging that Google had manipulated its search engine to bury negative stories about Mrs. Clinton.

The investigation was conducted by SourceFed, a “topical comedy channel” not known as a bastion of right-wing thought. In a follow-up video posted Friday, narrator Matt Lieberman made reference to “the surprising number of death threats, I mean attention” spurred by the video.

“If you watch the guy in the video who’s narrating it, if you watch his face, he almost looks pained reporting what he’s reporting,” said Mr. Motley.

The SourceFed report cited examples of Google’s autocomplete filling in searches like “Hillary Clinton ind” with “Indiana” and “India” instead of the more commonly searched “indictment.”

Google responded with a statement Friday saying that, “Google Autocomplete does not favor any candidate or cause,” and that the algorithm “will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person’s name,” not just Mrs. Clinton’s.

Indeed, a search for “Hillary Clinton cri” was filled in automatically with “Hillary Clinton crime reform,” while “Bernie Sanders cri” came up with “Bernie Sanders criticizes.” Both Bing and Yahoo filled in the same Clinton query with “Hillary Clinton crimes.”

On Google, “Donald Trump rac” produced “Donald Trump racist snopes,” while “Hillary Clinton rac” filled in with “Hillary Clinton racist costume.”

Then again, “Bernie Sanders soc” suggested “Bernie Sanders socialist,” while “Hillary Clinton soc” came up with “Hillary Clinton social media” on Google.

Conservatives weren’t necessarily buying it.

“I think you have to have a law degree to parse Google’s words,” said Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, on Fox Business.

“The question is, ‘Is Google biased?’ And that’s not the answer Google provided — it’s that the system, the algorithm, is not biased,” Mr. Schneider said. “But we know that Google itself is in the tank for [President] Obama, has been in the tank for Obama and is now in the tank for Hillary Clinton, and there’s good reason for that. From their perspective, they want to pursue as liberal policies as possible across the spectrum.”

Google’s ties to top Democrats are well known, starting with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, an active Clinton backer who runs a Clinton campaign data-analysis contracting firm.

Mr. Zuckerberg invited conservative pundits and analysts to a meeting at Facebook headquarters last month after an article in Gizmodo cited former staffers saying that they buried stories of interest to conservatives on the “trending topics” section.

“It doesn’t make sense for our mission or our business to suppress political content,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook after the meeting.

He added, “I know many conservatives don’t trust that our platform surfaces content without a political bias.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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