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Are Facebook's Biased Algorithms Illegal Under FEC Rules?

Are Facebook's Biased Algorithms Illegal Under FEC Rules?

Michael Dorstewitz By Friday, 10 August 2018 02:57 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Is social media violating provisions of the Federal Election Commission? Possibly.

In March, Carol Davidsen, the 2012 Obama reelection campaign’s media analytics director, revealed that Facebook granted the campaign a special favor that would have been refused to other candidates "because [Facebook] was on [Obama’s] side."

"Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing," she tweeted.

"They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side."  Davidsen continued.

Former Federal Election Commissioner Hans A. von Spakovsky observed that Facebook may have violated federal election law.

"Corporations under American campaign finance law are banned from making contributions to a federal candidate," von Spakovsky told Breitbart News.

"And they not only can’t make cash contributions, they can’t make a contribution of 'in-kind' services. So, if Facebook provided data and any kind of other services to one campaign but not to another, then they might be considered to have made an illegal corporate contribution."

Nonetheless, nothing came of it.

On the day of the 2016 presidential election, The New York Times and other outlets predicted Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had an 85 percent chance of winning.

We know how that turned out.

Two months later, Democratic operative and Media Matters founder David Brock held a meeting of fellow progressives, where he blamed the loss on "fake news" that was circulated on social media.

In a memo from that meeting, obtained by The Washington Free Beacon, Brock revealed that far-left Media Matters had "access to raw data from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites."

Social media platforms then went a step beyond giving Media Matters "access to raw data." They reduced the impact of conservative news sites on their platforms by creating algorithms biased against their websites. As a result, their posts no longer appeared in their followers’ news feeds, while liberal news sites enjoyed increased traffic.

"This algorithm change, intentional or not, has in effect censored conservative viewpoints on the largest social media platform in the world," Western Journal managing editor George Upper wrote. "This change has ramifications that, in the short-term, are causing conservative publishers to downsize or fold up completely, and in the long-term could swing elections in the United States and around the world toward liberal politicians and policies." [emphasis added]

Google met the call as well. For example, a California Republican called the tech giant out for linking the state GOP to Nazism.

Facebook occasionally even banned some conservative sites from its platform altogether. It temporarily removed the account of popular conservative commentators Diamond and Silk, two young, delightful black women, for being "unsafe" to the community.

Earlier this week Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Pinterest and Apple banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his website InfoWars from their platforms, making vague claims of "hate" while omitting any clear standards.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., applauded the ban.

"Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart," the senator  said. He added, "These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it."

Some observers claim these examples constitute a First Amendment free speech violation, but those prohibitions only apply to government actions.

However, as von Spakovsky said, these actions may constitute a violation of FEC rules.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., was in total agreement during his appearance on "Sunday Morning Futures" this week.

"If they’re going to politic through algorithm, they could well . . . come under the Federal Election Commission.  . . . They could be considered in fact to be making an 'in-kind' donation," he told host Maria Bartiromo.

"It doesn’t seem logical that when they come up with a new algorithm, it only seems to affect Republican conservatives, such as [Rep.] Jim Jordan [R-Ohio] and the like."

The FEC prohibits contributions from corporations (such as Facebook). It also prohibits contributions from individuals (such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg) that exceed "$33,900 per calendar year to a national party committee. This limit applies separately to a party's national committee, House campaign committee and Senate campaign committee."

That would work out to a total $101,700 contribution.

What value would a national political party place on duct taping their opponent’s mouth during an election year while being handed a megaphone?

Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He’s also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Facebook occasionally even banned some conservative sites from its platform altogether. It temporarily removed the account of popular conservative commentators Diamond and Silk, two young, delightful women for being unsafe.
brock, issa, jordan, murphy
Friday, 10 August 2018 02:57 PM
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