- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

After a recent investigative story revealed that Facebook was biased against conservative groups and news organizations, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg offered to meet and possibly make peace with high-profile conservatives. The American Conservative Union will not be on the guest list.

The ACU’s chairman, Matt Schlapp, has opted out of the get-together scheduled for Wednesday at the social media company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

Mr. Schlapp is very clear about his reasons for steering clear of the event, which has drawn media entrepreneur Glenn Beck, Fox News commentator Dana Perino and American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, among a reported 10 others.

“We appreciate the invitation, especially since our organization and annual conference, CPAC, were specifically targeted. However, we do not believe that the problem between Facebook and CPAC and the broader conservative community is merely a communication problem,” Mr. Schlapp said in a concise statement issued Monday night.

Facebook has a history of agitating against conservatives and conservative policies,” Mr. Schlapp said.

“The facts are: Facebook staff has admitted to suppressing content about CPAC. Facebook rejected ACU’s overtures for Facebook to play a meaningful role at CPAC. The deck is stacked: CPAC content egregiously underperforms on Facebook compared to Twitter and other platforms by factors of 10.”

Mr. Schlapp continued, “The Facebook Trending News Chief, Tom Stocky, is a maxed-out donor to Hillary Clinton. Of the 1,000 political donations from Facebook employees, 80 percent have gone to liberals. Facebook holds liberal positions on important issues such as privacy, property, and priests.”

“We will not be attending this meeting. We know one meeting cannot possibly resolve all of the above mentioned issues,” he added, noting that his organization would prefer “real engagement” with Mr. Zuckerberg and his organization.

The controversy began last week after Gizmodo, a technology blog, ran a story titled “Former Facebook workers routinely suppressed conservative news.” The conservative voice was essentially scrubbed from the “trending” news section, the investigation found.

“Workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users,” the story stated.

The Facebook audience is not insignificant. The site draws over 220 million people a month in the U.S. and Canada alone.

Facebook has harmed its credibility with conservatives, but if they want to mend the relationship, we’re happy to sit down with their experts about how they can better strike a balance between sterile algorithms choosing news content and when a human curator decides to put a finger on the scale. If Facebook wants the benefit of the doubt, they need to start with complete transparency on how decisions are made concerning its newsfeeds,” Mr. Schlapp said.  

“This is much bigger than just having a meeting with ‘leading conservatives’ and winning the day’s news cycle. The Gizmodo story has exposed the rift between Facebook’s liberal perspective and the hundred of millions of Americans who self-identify as conservative. We hope to have substantive interactions that can begin to resolve these issues,” he concluded.

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