What a Conservative Bias 'Stunt' Tells Us About How Facebook Handles Harassment
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What a Conservative Bias 'Stunt' Tells Us About How Facebook Handles Harassment

Project Veritas, a right-wing sting group, has released documents revealing interesting Facebook tactics for handling harassment, Business Insider reported.

With the help of a now-fired Facebook worker, Project Veritas managed to publish 60 pages of documents. According to Project Veritas, these documents show anti-conservative bias. In a related video showing confrontations with Facebook employees, the group’s leader James O’Keefe says, “It’s clear that Facebook is targeting the language of the right.”

Facebook says the documents are misinterpreted and calls it all a “stunt” and as the Verge’s Russel Brandom and Colin Lecher point out,  Project Veritas’ interpretations of the documents as specifically anti-conservative, and “plays into longstanding conservative fears over bias on tech platforms.”

As an organization, Project Veritas claims it’s “investigating and exposing corruption” and the group does sting operations, often focusing on media groups. However, Project Veritas has a long history of unsuccessful projects.

For example, in 2017, Project Veritas had a person pose as a sexual harassment victim of former GOP Senate candidate Ray Moore in an attempt to trick a Washington Post reporter. Then, back in 2010, James O’Keefe caught a misdemeanor charge after pretending to be a telephone repairman so he could break into a former Senator’s phone. 

Business Insider reported Facebook hasn’t disputed the authenticity of the exposed documents and they do show an interesting tactic called the “Twilight Zone.”

The “Twilight Zone” was a suggested way for Facebook to handle trolls coordinating harassment and trolling in private groups. It came up in 2017, according to the documents.

Essentially, it’s Facebook’s way of trolling back by messing with people’s ability to use the platform. That includes–as outlined by Business Insider–randomly logging them out or sending them back to the homepage, making photos and comments fail to upload, and throttling their bandwidth. It’s a way to make trolling difficult without having to ban someone.

Facebook also considered another tactic: shame.

“Fear of being outed as a miscreant is what regulates behavior in real life and we should re-introduce that to the online world,” the document says, suggesting that users’ friends should receive a notification when they’ve been suspended for something “egregious.”

It’s not clear if Facebook tried any of these systems. Although, when it comes to the claims of Project Veritas itself–a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge they fired the employee who assisted years ago for “breaking multiple employment policies” and performing “a stunt” for the group.

The spokesperson also said, “Unsurprisingly, the claims she is making validate her agenda and ignore the processes we have in place to ensure Facebook remains a platform to give people a voice, regardless of their political ideology.”