Josh Hawley: Facebook Political Bias 'Audit' a 'Smokescreen Disguised as a Solution'
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) slammed Facebook’s “audit” of its potential political bias Tuesday, believing that the investigation will not unearth any significant details about its censorship practices against conservatives and other alternatives voices.
Hawley made his statement in the wake of Facebook’s release of its interim findings of a “political bias review” conducted by former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Kyl’s report found that “Facebook’s policies and their application have the potential to restrict free expression” and that “this is a danger that must be taken very seriously.”
“Although we recognize that this may involve some tradeoffs between safety and free expression, we do not believe there is any need to cut off robust diversity of thought,” Kyl wrote in the report.
The report then noted that Facebook created an appeals process for suspended content, greater transparency about the processes that lead to what users see on its platform, and explaining how they prioritize data.
Sen. Hawley, one of the Senate’s leading big tech critics, chastised the “audit” as a false investigation and said that Facebook should submit its algorithm and its content moderation protocols to a trusted third party for auditing.
“Merely asking somebody to listen to conservatives’ concerns isn’t an ‘audit,’ it’s a smokescreen disguised as a solution,” Hawley charged. “Facebook should conduct an actual audit by giving a trusted third party access to its algorithm, its key documents, and its content moderation protocols. Then Facebook should release the results to the public.”
Auditing big tech companies’ content moderation processes has become a bipartisan issue for many lawmakers. Sens. Hawley and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) asked Google vice president of government affairs Karan Bhatia if he would submit to an independent, third-party audit of its content moderation practices during a hearing in July.
Blumenthal noted that Twitter and Facebook have both agreed to an independent, third-party audit, while Google has continued to dodge questions over whether they agree to an audit. Sen. Hawley slammed Bhatia for that dodge.
Hawley also proposed legislation that would audit social media companies for bias in their algorithms or content moderation processes, and if FTC were to find bias, then they would lose their Section 230 immunity. President Donald Trump praised Hawley’s bill as “very important,” and a poll found that a majority of Republicans and Independents favor the bill.