The Slatest

Today in Conservative Media: Social Media Bias Is the New Liberal Media Bias

Conservatives have found what they believe is a new form of bias.
Conservatives have found what they believe is a new form of bias.
Loic Venance/Getty Images

Today in Conservative Media is a daily roundup of the biggest stories in the right-wing press.

What to do about the news—who makes it, who reads it, who believes it, and who distributes it—in the era of social media is a conundrum felt by just about everyone. The seismic shift in how Americans get their information has been the ultimate disruptor. Conservatives have long complained about what they believed to be a liberal bias pervasive across the publications and programs of record. But does reading posts from friends, family, experts, and loons who think like you eliminate that perceived bias? Not so fast, writes Ben Shapiro for National Review, who explores a new vein of skepticism on the right: “Viewpoint Discrimination with Algorithms.”

Shapiro captures the evolving conservative view that their new enemy isn’t necessarily the New York Times, but Google, Facebook, and Twitter, all of which have it in for the right. As these companies attempt to untangle the misinformation masquerading as news on their platforms, Shapiro says “they’re cracking down disproportionately on conservative news.”

Google biases its algorithm to prevent people from searching for guns online in shopping; temporarily attached fact-checks from leftist sites like Snopes and PolitiFact to conservative websites but not leftist ones; showed more pro-Clinton results than pro-Trump results in news searches; and, of course, fired tech James Damore for the sin of examining social science in the debate over the wage gap. Google’s bias is as obvious as the “doodles” it chooses for its logos, which routinely feature left-wing icons and issues.

“Twitter has banned nasty accounts perceived as right-wing while ignoring similar activity from the left,” Shapiro continues. “YouTube has demonetized videos from conservatives while leaving similar videos up for members of the Left.” And then there’s Facebook. “Facebook was slammed two years ago for ignoring conservative stories and outlets in its trending news; now Facebook has shifted its algorithm to downgrade supposedly ‘partisan’ news, which has the effect of undercutting newer sites that are perceived as more partisan, while leaving brand names with greater public knowledge relatively unscathed,” Shapiro writes. That gives preferential treatment, again, to the same old established media outlets. “This bias in social media has profound impact on news consumption,” he concludes.

It’s not just Shapiro. Other conservatives smell a rat, as social media companies try to “fix” news and brand conservative views as fake or wrong. Hank Berrien at the Daily Wire writes that “conservatives are justifiably furious” that “YouTube is using the radically left-wing group, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), to influence its decisions as to what is too offensive to be placed on YouTube.”

In other news

Elsewhere in National Review, George Will gives a psycho-policy assessment of Trump and his economic swerve toward tariffs. “Down the decades, Trump has shown an impressive versatility of conviction, but the one constant in the jumble of quarter-baked and discordant prejudices that pass for his ideas has been hostility to free trade,” Will writes. “It perfectly expresses his adolescent delight in executive swagger, the objectives of which are of negligible importance to him; all that is important is that the spotlight follows where his impulses propel him.”

In the same publication, David French sticks up for the left’s new punching bag, New York Times columnist Bari Weiss, in a piece titled “The Sliming of Bari Weiss.” At the Weekly Standard Kevin Tripp has a controversial post: “Banning Guns in Schools Is Fine—Just Ask Scalia.” “The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia never intended for guns to end up in schools—and he said so 10 years ago,” Tripp writes. “When he wrote the landmark District of Columbia v. Heller decision, Scalia declared that the ‘right to keep and bear arms’ was an individual right.” Tripp notes Scalia wrote in the majority opinion in Heller: “… nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.” Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review isn’t convinced. “Tripp’s article doesn’t establish that Scalia thought that banning guns in schools is ‘fine’ or ‘perfectly reasonable,’ or that he objected to states’ allowing guns in schools,” Ponnuru writes. “It establishes only that Scalia thought that laws on either side of the question—permissive or prohibitive—were constitutional.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in New York City.