If you are wondering why Republican state legislators are aggressively pushing a prewritten bill limiting the ability for social media companies to moderate their own platforms, look no further than the myths debunked by a new report from NYU’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. From the report (PDF):
The trouble with this belief — that tech companies are censoring political viewpoints they find objectionable — is that there is no reliable evidence to support it. There are no credible studies showing that Twitter removes tweets for ideological reasons or that Google manipulates search results to impede conservative candidates (see sidebar on Google on page 12).
The false bias narrative is an example of political disinformation, meaning an untrue assertion that is spread to deceive. In this instance, the deception whips up part of the conservative base, much of which already bitterly distrusts the mainstream media. To call the bias claim disinformation does not, of course, rule out that millions of everyday people sincerely believe it.
I do not think it is surprising that trust in media among Americans has dropped more-or-less steadily ever since Fox News launched in 1996. It is the modern wedge — the thing that established that it is presenting the “other side” of the “liberal mainstream” of CBS, ABC, and NBC. None of that is true, but it fuelled the modern rise of the myth that there are exactly two ideological sides to everything. Other cable news networks copied this formula, none quite as successfully.
Social media is now being treated to the same argument that the mainstream — by disallowing destructive conspiracy theories, attempted insurrectionists, and attacks on the basis of ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation — is ideologically biased. It is not. These are merely the least these companies can do to restrict intolerant individuals’ ability to bully other users. Many people will never notice those rules because they are generally decent. For the people who cannot have a coherent discussion without resorting to personal attacks, there are miserable “alt-tech” platforms that are happy to brew a toxic environment.