Facebook regularly deals with accusations of anti-conservative bias, but a new report suggests it may have been particularly forgiving. Washington Post sources say Facebook has limited punishment for Donald Trump allies who repeatedly violate rules against misinformation, in some cases removing strikes that could have led to reduced News Feed distribution or even bans. The social network pulled a repeat infraction claim against Donald Trump Jr. on Instagram due to fear of a “backlash” from the penalties that would follow, according to the reported insiders.
Other Trump family members also had strikes removed, the sources said. A pro-Trump PAC (America First Action) and other organizations that have repeatedly posted known false information also appeared to have escaped consequences. Facebook said it would label some posts that break its rules, but the Post found examples of clearly false claims from Rush Limbaugh, Gateway Pundit and others that hadn’t received those disclaimers.
Facebook spokeswoman Andrea Vallone didn’t directly challenge the report, noting the social media giant wouldn’t penalize accounts in “rare cases” when a rating wasn’t “appropriate or warranted.” The representative stressed that “many” pages the Post found had been punished for spreading falsehoods, but declined to say how or what the thresholds were to avoid opportunities for “gaming the system.”
If accurate, the exceptions wouldn’t be surprising. Like Twitter and other internet heavyweights, Facebook is aware that Trump and Republicans currently hold power that could lead to regulation and other legal action. Trump’s order demanding a rethink of the Communications Decent Act’s Section 230 is widely considered retaliation against Twitter for fact-checking one of his posts, and Facebook itself caught flak from Senate Republicans for limiting a New York Post story making hotly disputed allegations against Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
Stlll, this isn’t going to help quiet accusations that Facebook has separate standards for different people and groups. Critics have contended that Facebook is allowing misinformation to spread as a consequence, and that it shouldn’t have to fear retaliation when allegations of free speech violations haven’t held up in court. Its bid to please both sides of the American political discourse may have ultimately stoked tensions.