Facebook has fired a contractor who secretly worked with Project Veritas, a right-wing organization specializing in media stings.
According to reports from The Verge, this information was revealed after the group published a number of screenshots of Facebook’s internal communications. According to Project Veritas, this intel was provided by a content review analyst who was tasked with handling copyright and trademark claims. Just to give you a flavor of the sting’s content, it’s basically a series of emails between Facebook employees discussing how to moderate right-wing posts and an internal presentation about how to tackle racist trolls.
This was posted alongside a YouTube video which shows on-the-street altercations with Facebook employees. The video is narrated by Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe, who alleges that Facebook seeks to deliberately undermine users with conservative values. In the video, O’Keefe states that “it’s clear that Facebook is targeting the language of the right.” However, the content that’s been shared shows more of a focus on specific users who are known for harassment, as opposed to a bias against conservative ideology.
The Project Veritas video particularly homes in on an incident surrounding a tag called “ActionDeboostLiveDistribution,” which their source believes was used to moderate conservative content. However, Facebook has disputed this claim, saying that they were trying to prevent users from gaming the News Feed’s preference for live content. For instance, some pages were trying to override the algorithm by uploading pre-recorded videos with the live API. As this is a violation of the site’s policy, a moderator would apply the “ActionDeboostLiveDistribution” tag to the fake video in order to boost authentic live content.
When contacted for comment, a spokesperson told The Verge that the video is an unfair portrayal of Facebook’s internal operations. According to Facebook, the source was fired a year ago for breaking a number of rules, including using her role to stage a stunt for the ring-wing sting group. The spokesperson continued:
“Unsurprisingly, the claims she is making validate her agenda and ignore the processes we have in place to ensure Facebook remains a platform to give people a voice, regardless of their political ideology.”
Project Veritas and James O’Keefe have a history of distributing misleading information, including videos of NPR and ACORN staff that watchdog groups later found to be false. Moreover, this report comes in the wake of increasing hysteria about bias against right-wing views on social media, largely fuelled by President Donald Trump.