(The Gateway Pundit himself, Jim Hoft, didn’t respond to an inquiry but posted pre-emptively that “The Gateway Pundit has been 100% correct in all of our reporting on every major story.”)
It was Facebook that became the first target of coordinated right-wing outrage in 2016, when conservatives seized on a Gizmodo article to suggest that editors of Facebook’s “Trending” section were censoring conservative voices. The story had, in fact, uncovered a secret: that Facebook was turning to human beings, with editorial judgment, to make decisions about what content to show its users, rather than simply relying on algorithms.
A former Facebook employee recalls the company’s Republican lobbyist, Joel Kaplan, pushing in those early days to do away with human editorial choices, and to let Facebook’s algorithms choose what news made its “Trending” section. Instead, Facebook killed the feature entirely, and prostrated itself to the right in a public meeting with Republican media figures and a private 2016 visit by Mark Zuckerberg’s executive team to Fox News headquarters.
Since then, Facebook has sought to ingratiate itself to the Trump administration, while taking a harder line on Covid-19 misinformation. As the president’s backers post wild claims on the social network, the company offers the equivalent of wrist slaps — labels stuck on false or misleading claims with a complex fact-checking system that labels that avoids drawing the company directly into the political fray. It hasn’t worked: The fact-checking subcontractors are harried umpires, an easy target for Trump supporters’ ire.
“It’s the fact-checking business that is causing all this trouble,” Brent Bozell, the founder of the conservative Media Research Center and a veteran professional ref-worker told me.
BuzzFeed News and NBC News reported last week that Facebook executives have acted in recent months on pleas from pro-Trump voices that they not be punished for misleading readers. It’s a sign of the pressure on the company — but also of a reality that Facebook won’t say aloud: The pro-Trump media is in the misinformation business with scale and energy that lacks parallel, and in part because simply repeating the president often means spreading misinformation.
In fact, two people close to the Facebook fact-checking process told me, the vast bulk of the posts getting tagged for being fully or partly false come from the right. That’s not bias. It’s because sites like The Gateway Pundit are full of falsehoods, and because the president says false things a lot.