Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long insisted that the company is politically neutral, but the same apparently can’t be said for all of its content moderators.
The social-media giant said it would review its training and oversight after a Project Veritas sting released Tuesday showed moderators on hidden-camera footage claiming that they delete pro-Trump and conservative posts; that the company harbors an anti-Trump bias, and that Facebook shadow-bans content, despite its claims to the contrary.
In an email, a Facebook spokesperson said, “Our reviewers work hard to keep our platform safe for billions of users every day.”
“The reviewers’ decisions are regularly evaluated to ensure our policies are applied fairly and accurately,” said the spokesperson. “We do not promote political viewpoints of any stripe and the comments included in this video are not consistent with our policies. We will be reviewing our training and oversight to make sure these decisions are made consistent with our policies.”
The Project Veritas video featured an interview with former content moderator Zach McElroy of Cognizant, a third-party firm used by Facebook to police the platform, who said that about three-quarters of the posts flagged for “civic harassment” tilted to the right.
“I saw a stark contrast between Republican versus Democrats in that queue,” said Mr. McElroy. “I saw upwards of 75% to 80% of the posts in that queue were from Republican pages, politicians, journalists, and pages that supported the president or supported conservatives.”
He said the content moderators, who lean heavily to the left, “are essentially in charge of what gets said and what gets stifled.”
“And in speaking with a lot of them, I found that they are not at all shy to exercise their political will in deleting or leaving up content, whether or not they’re allowed to or whether or not they’ll get penalized for it, especially when they’ve got nothing to lose, that is to say, they’re getting laid off,” Mr. McElroy said.
In October, Cognizant announced that it would scale back its content-moderation services in 2020 for Facebook, cutting about 6,000 jobs, following reports in The Verge and the Tampa Bay Times about the stressful working conditions experienced by staffers who monitor graphic and violent posts.
The video featured Project Veritas investigators speaking in hidden-camera footage to about a dozen content moderators, most of whom were identified by name. The Washington Times has not confirmed their identities independently.
I feel like this scene was left out of ‘The Social Network’ @tylerwinklevoss @winklevoss#ExposeFacebook pic.twitter.com/qA83x3U7Xt
— James O’Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) June 23, 2020
More truth about Facebook and the social media masters. Enough is enough we can’t let them interfere with elections any longer. Election interference is such a hot topic except when it’s done by the left, then everyone is silent. https://t.co/HNR5y9QHZt
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 23, 2020
One man described as a moderator in Austin, Texas, called Facebook “a very progressive company who’s very anti-MAGA,” referring to President Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan.
While Facebook has a hands-off policy on Mr. Trump’s posts, he said, “the fortunate thing is even if he does say something, if it gets repeated, we can at least get the average Joe.”
Another content moderator said, “I think they’re very biased about who they’re going to protect,” adding that he believes that Facebook shadow-bans, saying, “it’s clear that people’s content don’t come up because it’s been de-filtered off the queue.”
“They’re doing something, man. They’re just trying to pretend that they’re not,” he said.
Several moderators expressed anti-Trump sentiments. “Time to get the Cheetoh out of office,” said one staffer.
Another man said that “like half the time when I delete people for pro-Trump sh*t, I’m like, you should be on a watch list, dude,” while a woman said that on her last day with the company, “If someone is wearing a MAGA hat, I am going to delete them for terrorism and just going to like go crazy.”
Mr. McElroy pointed to the disparate handling of two politically charged graphics: He said a drawing showing Mr. Trump bleeding from the mouth with a knife to his neck was allowed to remain on the platform, while a cartoon of Elmer Fudd “shooting” Democrat Beto O’Rourke was removed.
“There’s no difference between the two,” Mr. McElroy said. “There’s no logical reason why the determined reaction to those two posts would be different. They should be the same.”
He said Facebook also made an exception to its policy against accusations of terrorism with a comment by CNN’s Don Lemon, who said in 2018 that white men are “the biggest terrorist threat in this country,” ruling that the remark was newsworthy.
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that the Project Veritas investigation raised concerns about 2020 election meddling by social-media platforms, saying, “Enough is enough we can’t let them interfere with elections any longer.”
At an April 2018 hearing, Mr. Zuckerberg told Senate Republicans he takes political bias allegations seriously and has tried to make sure “that we do not have any bias in the work that we do.”
Mr. McElroy acknowledged that he had signed a non-disclosure agreement covering his work on Facebook content, but added, “I think the truth is more powerful than any NDA.”
Known for its hidden-camera investigations, Project Veritas has been accused of deceptively editing its undercover videos, which PV president James O’Keefe has adamantly denied.
“The actions of the content moderators may not be conclusive evidence of structural bias at Facebook, but it certainly speaks to the anti-conservative culture that McElroy says is pervasive,” said Mr. O’Keefe on the video.
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Project Veritas sting: N.H. man charged, admits voting twice by disguising himself as a woman
As voter-fraud cases go, it was brazen: Not only did Vincent Marzello allegedly pose as a woman to vote twice in the 2016 election, but he also signed up as a ballot inspector for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Mr. Marzello, 65, was charged last week with wrongful voting after he told Project Veritas in…
As voter-fraud cases go, it was brazen: Not only did Vincent Marzello allegedly pose as a woman to vote twice in the 2016 election, but he also signed up as a ballot inspector for the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
Mr. Marzello, 65, was charged last week with wrongful voting after he told Project Veritas in an undercover video that he cast ballots twice, landing on law enforcement’s radar when he attempted to obtain a voter ID in the name of Helen Elisabeth Ashley, his alter-ego.
“I got in trouble because I voted twice, and the cops found out because I went to get the voter ID,” Mr. Marzello said in the Aug. 21 video.
The case prompted New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to complete a review of pending voting-fraud cases and strengthen the state’s enforcement of election law, according to a recorded phone call between Mr. MacDonald and Project Veritas President James O’Keefe.
“We need to do better,” Mr. MacDonald, a Republican, said on the call. “We’ve got a plan in place to do better.”
— James O’Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) September 9, 2020
The response came as something of a coup for Mr. O’Keefe, who met with top state prosecutors Sept. 2 to show them the video of Mr. Marzello confessing. The West Lebanon man was charged the next day with felony wrongful voting and a civil charge of falsely applying for and obtaining a ballot.
The Washington Times has reached out to the New Hampshire attorney general’s office.
Mr. Marzello had no voter ID when he sought to vote disguised as Helen Ashley in 2016, but was able to cast a ballot by signing an affidavit swearing that he was “the identical person whom I represent myself to be.” The affidavit was accompanied by a photo showing him in a wig and women’s clothing.
New Hampshire State Trooper James Decker, who led the investigation and turned over the file to prosecutors in December, said that the Newport Department of Motor Vehicles notified authorities when Mr. Marzello sought to obtain a voter ID after the election.
“I think it speaks for itself when a 61-year-old man can walk in with no ID and no supporting documents and sell himself as a 32-year-old woman just by signing off some papers, and three different city officials sign off on it,” Trooper Decker said. “I think that speaks volumes.”
Deputy Attorney General Jane Young said the delay in processing the case resulted from redeploying staff from the election law unit to handle novel coronavirus-related matters, and she credited Project Veritas for pursuing the case.
“Without the involvement of Project Veritas, would we have brought the case today? Likely not,” she told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Sept. 3. “We have a couple more voter cases, and in the run-up to the presidential election, we are giving them to more than just the one attorney we have in the election law unit.”
Project Veritas, known for its undercover video stings, has a history of pursuing investigations related to voter fraud and election irregularities, particularly in New Hampshire, where the group has been active since 2012.
A 2012 sting showed Project Veritas investigators requesting and receiving the ballots of deceased voters — but not filling out the ballots — prompting a state probe that was later dropped.
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Project 21, black conservatives group, joins police reform push of liberals
Black conservative leaders are finding common ground with their liberal counterparts on a host of police reform policies in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, including de-escalation tactics, ending civil assets forfeiture and holding bad officers accountable. “Four people for one person is ridiculous,” said Marie…
Black conservative leaders are finding common ground with their liberal counterparts on a host of police reform policies in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, including de-escalation tactics, ending civil assets forfeiture and holding bad officers accountable.
“Four people for one person is ridiculous,” said Marie Fischer, a member of the black conservative group Project 21, referring to the number of officers who helped restrain Mr. Floyd while one of them knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25. “And they stopped him all for a counterfeit $20 bill?”
Liberal and conservative black leaders are beginning to coalesce around similar ideas in the wake of high-profile police killings of unarmed black males.
“Unusual coalitions are emerging,” Sen. Cory A. Booker, New Jersey Democrat, said Monday in a phone call with reporters hosted by leading civil rights groups. “We have a nation where you’re seeing more receptivity to ideas that just four or five years ago would see [Republican] resistance.”
At the center of this dovetailing are two documents from partisan opponents: the “21st Century Policing Report” written by a task force convened by President Obama and Project 21’s “Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America.”
The documents reflect ideological differences in the role of faith leaders, LGBTQ inclusivity and other topics.
But both support the “broken windows” community policing approach implemented in New York City in the 1990s and encourage the development of police tactics for people with disabilities and increasing data on effective strategies.
Both also encourage ending civil assets forfeiture: the taking of private property by law enforcement during the course of an investigation.
“Law enforcement agencies have become too focused on revenue-generating activities,” Project 21’s “Blueprint” says.
The organization cites a study from the Nevada Policy Research Institute showing that two-thirds of assets seized by police in 2016 were concentrated in 12 ZIP codes, all with mostly nonwhite populations.
“In some communities, tickets, fines, fees, and asset forfeitures generated by arrests contribute to a significant portion of revenue and law enforcement budgets,” the “21st Century Policing Report” says.
Several black liberals called Monday for a variety of reforms, including a national registry of police officers to prevent repeat offenders from moving to different departments and a federal statute to lower the threshold for prosecuting officers who use lethal force, otherwise known as the “doctrine of qualified immunity.”
“The way the laws are written now, they can justify choking a man to death … because they are not required to prove that there was no other way to de-escalate a situation,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network.
Mr. Booker pointed to deals with Republicans that led to the 2018 bipartisan criminal justice reform package, signed by President Trump that overhauled prison and sentencing laws that historically had been harsh on blacks.
Meanwhile, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, condemned the rioting and looting that erupted after Mr. Floyd’s death. But he also has called for reform and repeated criticisms of racial profiling and unequal treatment of blacks.
“There’s too much abuse within law enforcement towards African American men,” Mr. Scott told “Fox News Sunday.” “I have been a victim seven times — stopped in one year — as an elected official, just driving while black.”
Black conservatives and liberals were united in criticizing the violence and destruction emerging in protests over Mr. Floyd’s death and said justice should be found in the courts.
“The officers who killed George Floyd will be tried and judged by a jury of their peers,” Stacy Washington, co-chair of Project 21, said Monday. “That is the system of justice that we have and cherish here in America.”
Project 21’s Ms. Fischer and Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, echoed that sentiment. She said the incidents in Minneapolis show a need to go beyond anti-racism training for police officers.
Ms. Fischer said “there doesn’t need to be a lot of police training” to know not to kneel on a person’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
“We’re not talking about training individual officers anymore,” said Ms. Ifill. “There’s no training that’s going to train that officer [who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck].”
The Rainbow/PUSH and the Congress for Racial Equality did not respond to requests for comment.
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