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Exclusive book excerpt: How Facebook and Twitter rigged the game in 2020


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In her new book, “Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections,” Mollie Hemingway reveals how social-media corporations like Twitter and Facebook responded to the 2016 election of Donald Trump to go from free-speech advocates to censors — together with blocking The Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden. Here, an unique excerpt:

Donald Trump’s 2016 victory was a shock to a lot of the nation, however Silicon Valley took it particularly exhausting. The progressive bastion of San Francisco had turned tech corporations from libertarian idealists into liberal crusaders. The business as a complete felt complicit in Donald Trump’s rise and was intent on doing every little thing in its energy to suppress his voice and these of his supporters.

From the starting, the tech overlords have been plotting find out how to strike again.

In one assembly, Google founder Sergey Brin advised that “Jigsaw,” a challenge Google had developed to fight Islamic terror propaganda, could possibly be used to form the opinions of Trump voters. By the time Trump was inaugurated, a former Google engineer had informed Breitbart reporter Allum Bokhari that activists inside the firm had shaped a working group to brainstorm methods to make use of Google’s assets to undermine the Trump administration.

In this Sept. 25, 2021, file photo, former President Donald Trump prepares to take the stage during his Save America rally in Perry, Ga.
Silicon Valley, writes Mollie Hemingway, felt uneasy with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.
Ben Gray, File/AP

Another Google engineer needed to sabotage Trump’s cellphone, which ran on Google’s Android working system, in addition to ban the Gmail accounts of senior Trump administration officers. An worker in Google’s promoting division personally referred purchasers of Google adverts to the Web web site of Sleeping Giants, an activist group that encourages boycotts of conservative news shops.

It wasn’t any higher over at Facebook, the place some workers actually took per week off to grieve.

Soon after the election, BuzzFeed was reporting, “Facebook employees have formed an unofficial task force to question the role their company played in promoting fake news in the lead-up to Donald Trump’s victory in the US election last week.”

The group was working in open defiance of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who stated the concept that Facebook had unfairly tilted the election in Trump’s favor was “crazy.”

Facebook employees felt pressure following the election.
Facebook workers felt strain following the election.

By December 2016, Zuckerberg had caved. Facebook adopted a brand new coverage of making an attempt to fight the alleged “fake news” that troubled Facebook’s left-wing workers. The tech large would begin paying media shops to “fact-check” news on the web site. With media income steadily declining — in no small half as a result of Facebook had radically disrupted the conventional journalistic enterprise fashions — as soon as respected news organizations signed as much as take part in the fact-checking program.

Media shops that have been alleged to be objectively overlaying Facebook have been now on Facebook’s payroll, given the energy to find out all the news that was match to print.

Whether or not the tech corporations needed to confess it, a lot of Silicon Valley’s anger over Trump’s victory was about their incapacity to regulate American opinion.

In the previous two elections, the tech business had loudly and publicly taken credit score for serving to Obama’s two victorious campaigns.

For years, the dreamers that constructed Silicon Valley had prided themselves on the potential of the Internet to turn into a digital libertarian oasis that provided folks a approach of opting out of the establishments that had traditionally sought to regulate what they thought and did. This was at all times a little bit of a pipe dream, however when a Twitter govt famously referred to the social media platform as the “free speech wing of the free speech party” in 2012, Americans nonetheless largely believed the Internet was a drive for good.

But Silicon Valley’s Orwellian response to 2016 proved as soon as and for all that the visionaries at America’s tech corporations have been oppressors, not liberators. In 2018, a whistleblower at Google leaked a document titled “The Good Censor,” and it summed up Google’s position in mediating America’s discourse this fashion:

Hemingway also touches upon social media's role in helping President Obama winning two terms.
Hemingway additionally touches upon social media’s position in serving to President Obama profitable two phrases.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

“Free speech has become a social, economic, and political weapon.”

In January 2018, Project Veritas, a journalism outlet that specializes in undercover investigations, launched a video of a former “content review agent” at Twitter (CEO Jack Dorsey). The agent admitted that the platform was biased in opposition to conservatives, whereas Twitter workers reviewing questionable content material “let a lot of the left-leaning or liberal stuff go through unchecked.”

Rigged by Mollie Hemingway book cover
Rigged by Mollie Hemingway book cowl

Veritas’s investigation additionally featured a former software program engineer at Twitter who admitted that the firm “shadow banned” customers — a time period for when social-media corporations make use of algorithms to lower the visibility of sure customers with out telling them.

Numerous outstanding conservatives had seen sudden decreases in engagement on social media and had lengthy suspected that this was occurring. In January 2020, Twitter up to date its phrases of service to formally assert the proper to “limit distribution or visibility of any Content on the service.”

And Twitter was hardly an outlier. In December 2018, Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified underneath oath earlier than Congress that the firm doesn’t “manually intervene” in search outcomes.

The subsequent month, a Google worker leaked inner discussions to Breitbart exhibiting that the firm did, in truth, intrude with search outcomes. Google-owned YouTube, the world’s second hottest search engine after Google itself, had a “blacklist” — Google’s time period — associated to quite a few political matters. If you searched YouTube for abortion, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, gun management activist David Hogg, or different political matters, Google was rigging the outcomes.

But that was simply the tip of the iceberg. “We have tons of white- and blacklists that humans manually curate,” stated one Google worker. “Hopefully this isn’t surprising or particularly controversial.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 25, 2021.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testifies throughout a House Energy and Commerce Committee listening to at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 25, 2021.
House Energy and Commerce Committee by way of AP

Another worker famous that the YouTube intervention on abortion search outcomes occurred shortly after left-wing publication Slate requested Google to touch upon the prominence of pro-life movies on the platform.

Google additionally seems to have deliberately lowered the search engine rankings and visibility of conservative media. A September 2020 report in RealClearPolitics by Maxim Lott sifted by means of the information of the consulting agency Sistrix, which tracks information associated to search engine marketing. The information clearly present that, beginning in 2017, “conservative news sites including Breitbart, the Daily Caller, and the Federalist have seen their Google search listings dramatically reduced.” And Google was making it absurdly troublesome to seek out particular info on conservative shops.

The choice to blackball conservative web sites was nearly actually intentional. In 2018, The Daily Caller obtained extra leaked inner communications exhibiting that Google employees had debated burying conservative news websites. An worker described Breitbart and The Daily Caller particularly as “opinion blogs” that shouldn’t be elevated subsequent to company media in search outcomes, regardless that each web sites do very important reporting and usually break main political news, whereas main company media shops have turn into hyper-partisan and routinely push faux news.

Google reportedly limited the number stories from conservative outlets that would appear in searches.
Google reportedly restricted the quantity tales from conservative shops that would seem in searches.
Michel Euler/AP

It’s simple Google is rigging outcomes on politically delicate matters, and that the outcomes of this are politically disadvantageous to conservatives. The impact of this on elections seems to be much more vital than most notice. Starting in 2012, psychologist Robert Epstein, the former editor in chief of Psychology Today, performed a sequence of experiments to determine the diploma to which biased search engine outcomes can form political opinion. Most folks wrongly view search engine outcomes as the product of mechanical neutrality, merely the rating and ordering of outcomes, and are simply influenced by them.

Epstein, a politically liberal Harvard Ph.D., would later report that during 2016 “all 10 positions on the first page of [Google] search results in both blue states and red states” have been biased towards Hillary Clinton.

Based on conclusions from his earlier experiments, Epstein estimated that Google alone might have swayed 2.6 million Americans to vote for Hillary Clinton.

In 2019, Epstein would inform the Senate Judiciary Committee that search engine manipulation is “one of the most powerful forms of influence ever discovered in the behavioral sciences.”

In 2020, Epstein monitored Google outcomes utilizing over seven hundred volunteers in three swing states and concluded, “Google search results were strongly biased in favor of liberals and Democrats. This was not true on Bing or Yahoo. . . . The bottom line at the moment is that these manipulations, the ones that we’ve so far quantified, could easily have shifted at least six million votes in just one direction.”

Further, Epstein noticed what he claimed was overt manipulation by Google. “We also found what seems to be a smoking gun. That is, we found a period of days when the vote reminder on Google’s homepage was being sent only to liberals — not one of our conservative field agents received a vote reminder during those days,” he stated.

As the 2020 election drew close to, social media corporations —  pushed by inner strain from workers in addition to exterior strain from liberal activists — began concentrating on Trump immediately.

A report found that Google was more favorable to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
A report discovered that Google was extra favorable to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Alliance for Women in Media Foundation/Getty Images for Alliance for Women in Media Foundation

For most of the remainder of election yr, Twitter would usually block or in any other case censor the president’s tweets. The censorship uncovered egregious double requirements. At a listening to earlier than the Israeli Knesset in July, a consultant of Twitter was requested why the firm was censoring Trump however had accomplished nothing about Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, who had repeatedly known as for the destruction of Israel and Jewish genocide.

Just over per week earlier than Trump’s censored tweet about looting from the George Floyd riots, Khamenei had tweeted, “The only remedy until the removal of the Zionist regime is firm, armed resistance,” and Twitter did nothing.

The response from Twitter to the Knesset was disingenuous, to place it mildly. Khamenei bought a free move as a result of “comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on economic or military issues are generally not in violation of our Twitter rules.”

Again, the extra possible clarification is that Twitter, very similar to the executives in any respect the different tech corporations, despised Trump and his politics.

Facebook as soon as touted its potential to close off 80 p.c of the Internet visitors to any hyperlink it deems deceptive. When deciding whom to censor, Facebook relied on media “fact-checkers” who think about themselves the opposition celebration. Biased journalists got the energy to clean their rivals from the Internet, thanks extra to the legacy of their locations of employment than their very own work.

This strategy of faulty or slanted liberal media experiences informing Facebook “fact checks” performed out by means of Trump’s whole presidency and reelection effort. It suppressed dozens of news tales in the public curiosity and helped get Biden over the end line.

“At Facebook, we took our responsibility to protect the integrity of this election very seriously . . . We’ve built sophisticated systems to protect against election interference,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg informed ABC News shortly after the election. He highlighted his censorship work, which he described as a battle in opposition to “misinformation.”

Excerpted with permission from “Rigged” (Regnery Publishing) by Mollie Hemingway, out now.

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