By any measure Facebook hasn’t had the best of years in 2018.
But while toxic problems keep piling up and, well, raining acidly down on the social networking giant — from election interference, to fake accounts, faulty metrics, security flaws, ethics failures, privacy outrages and much more besides — the silver lining of having a core business now widely perceived as hostile to democratic processes and civilized sentiment, and the tool of choice for shitposters agitating for hate and societal division, well, everywhere in the world, is that Facebook has frankly far more important things to worry about than the latest anti-tech-industry salvo from President Trump.
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In an early morning tweet today, Trump (again) attacked what he dubbed anti-conservative “bias” in the digital social sphere — hitting out at not just Facebook but tech’s holy trinity of social giants, with a claim that “Facebook, Twitter and Google are so biased towards the Dems it is ridiculous!”
Time was when Facebook was so sensitive to accusations of internal anti-conservative bias that it fired a bunch of journalists it had contracted and replaced them with algorithms — which almost immediately pumped up a bunch of fake news. RIP irony.
Not today, though.
When asked if it had a response to Trump’s accusation of bias a Facebook spokesperson told us: “We don’t have anything to add here.”
The brevity and alacrity of the response suggested the spokesperson had a really cheerful expression on their face when they typed it.
The relief of Facebook not having to give a shit this time was kinda palpable, even in pixel form.
It was also a far cry from the screeds the company routinely dispenses these days to try to muffle journalistic — and indeed political — enquiry.
Trump evidently doesn’t factor ‘bigly’ on Facebook’s oversubscribed risk-list.
Even though Facebook was the first name on the president’s (non-alphabetical) tech giant hit-list.
Still, Twitter appeared to have irked Trump more, as his tweet singled out the short-form platform — with an accusation that Twitter has made it “much more difficult for people to join [sic] @realDonaldTrump”. (We think by “join” he means follow. But we’re speculating wildly.)
This is perhaps why Twitter felt moved to provide a response to the claim of bias, albeit also without wasting a lot of words.
Here’s its statement:
Our focus is on the health of the service, and that includes work to remove fake accounts to prevent malicious behavior. Many prominent accounts have seen follower counts drop, but the result is higher confidence that the followers they have are real, engaged people.
Presumably the president failed to read our report, from July, when we trailed Twitter’s forthcoming spam purge, warning it would result in users with lots of followers taking a noticeable hit in the coming days. In a word: Sad.
Of course we also asked Google for a response to Trump’s bias claim. But just got radio silence.
In similar “bias” tweets from August the company got a bigger Trump-lashing. And in a response statement then it told us: “We never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai has also just had to sit through some three hours of questions from Republicans in Congress on this very theme.
So the company probably feels it’s exhausted the political bias canard.
Even while, as the claims drone on and on, it might truly come to understand what it feels like to be stuck inside a filter bubble.
In any case there are far more pressing things to accuse Google’s algorithms of than being ‘anti-Trump’.
So it’s just as well it didn’t waste time on another presidential sideshow intended to distract from problems of Trump’s own making.