This article was published on May 31, 2019

Facebook board votes yae on Zuck, nay on Conservatives

Facebook board votes yae on Zuck, nay on Conservatives
Tristan Greene
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Tristan Greene

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Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

A mutiny attempt today by a coalition of anti-Zuckerberg Facebook shareholder groups resulted in a resounding defeat as the social network voted to retain its founder as CEO. In a separate smack-down, a right-wing advocacy group found its demand for Conservative voices on Facebook’s board rejected wholesale.

Investors came at CEO Mark Zuckerberg with eight separate proposals aimed at limiting his power or his outright resignation. However, as Bloomberg reported, all it took was Zuckerberg’s majority votes to dismiss each one.

Not to be outdone, right-wing activists from the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) managed to get a proposal on the bill demanding Facebook provide shareholders with a “description of the specific minimum qualifications that the Board’s nominating committee believes must be met by a nominee to be on the board of directors and a chart or other presentation of each nominee’s skills, ideological perspectives and experience.”

Unsurprisingly, Facebook’s board voted against the proposal outright on the basis it was pointless. What’s interesting is that the NCPPR is framing this as Facebook’s acceptance of Liberal doctrine and bias against Conservatives.

The proposal itself, which you can read here, could be described as word soup meant to work in the point that the NCPPR and its activist arm thinks Facebook is full of Liberals hellbent on silencing Conservative voices. It appears to request a disclosure on what “qualifications” the board seeks, but never clarifies its point:

True diversity comes from diversity of thought. There is ample evidence that the Company — and Silicon Valley generally — operate in ideological hegemony that eschews conservative people, thoughts, and values … We are requesting comprehensive disclosures about board composition and what qualifications the Company seeks for its Board.

Allow us to help: you want Facebook to put Conservatives on its board. This doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, especially if you’re a Conservative. But you don’t have to zoom out very far to see that the NCPPR really just wants to be able to peddle pseudoscience and ignorance without being called fake news.

The NCPPR is, almost certainly, more upset about its own drop in Facebook traffic after the social network started deprioritizing fake news sources and groups making dubious, unscientific claims. According the organization’s own press release its Vice President David Almasi believes its woes stem from the group’s stance as climate change deniers:

In his statement before Facebook leaders and investors, Almasi cited the National Center’s experience with declining Facebook traffic. An investigator from a law firm commissioned by Facebook to study anti-conservative bias suggested that the National Center’s position on climate change policy likely affected its ability to engage with users on a wide range of topics.

The problem here, of course, is that “climate change,” (more aptly: climate crisis) is only a partisan issue to hard right Conservatives. It’s no longer debatable, despite what a Conservative think tank says. Any organization promoting the false idea that humans aren’t directly causing a catastrophic global climate shift should be labeled as fake news. Positioning the proposal as fighting for Conservative voices is without merit.

This isn’t the first time the NCPPR has attempted to present its insipid climate crisis-denials as advice for investors. In 2014 the organization asked Apple shareholders to stop investing in “so-called green” technologies because it wasn’t a sound return on investment (ROI). This so raised the ire of Apple CEO Tim Cook – a man who typically comes off like a sitcom dad from the 1990s – that he basically asked them not to invest in his company any further. According to The Mac Observer’s Bryan Chaffin:

Cook categorically rejected the worldview behind the NCPPR’s advocacy. He said that there are many things Apple does because they are right and just, and that a return on investment (ROI) was not the primary consideration on such issues … “When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don’t consider the bloody ROI” …  “If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.”

It seems like the only Conservative voices being suppressed are those spreading misinformation. That’s not to say social media algorithms don’t block people for the wrong reason, or those who don’t deserve it. For example, men can show their nipples on every major platform but for some reason when a woman does the same thing she gets banned.

There’s more than enough bias in social media to go around without claiming companies only deplatform members of the US political right wing. Keeping climate crisis-deniers from spreading ignorance is a necessary kind of bias. Facebook isn’t the public square; it’s a private company with a policy against fake news.

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