Facebook ‘ s lonely conservative takes a power position

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Senator-elect Josh Hawley discusses Facebook’s abuse of user information.

After more than a year of research and discussion, Facebook Inc. at the end of this summer shelved a project with the name “Common Ground”, which tried to encourage users with different political beliefs to communicate in a less hostile ways. One of the reasons: fear that the proposed correction could lead to claims of bias against the conservatives, according to people familiar with the decision.

The objections were submitted by Joel Kaplan, a former White House assistant to George W. Bush, who occurred as Facebook’s protector against allegations of political bias—and thus one of the most powerful and most controversial executives.

Mr. Kaplan is Facebook’s long term global policy of the chief, but his command is clearly increased in the past two years. He often has the decisive word internally on hot-button political issues and has still its influence to delay or kill projects that the risk of distortion of the conservatives, said the people familiar with the decisions.

Mr Kaplan now has a voice in the question whether certain news-feed products are launched, an area that has long been the possibilities of Facebook’s engineers and product teams.


Mr. Kaplan is the physical manifestation of an unresolved tension within Facebook to be in the middle of the drumbeat of criticism since the 2016 presidential election: The company has an objective of minimizing polarization and misinformation, but it is becoming more and more wary be construed as partisan. Many of the current and former Facebook insiders claim that the company’s desire to avoid the criticism of conservatives is to prevent the completely the approach of the broader issues on the platform.

Facebook Vice-President Guy Rosen, who oversees the company’s safety and security efforts, said employees are still adjusting to the changes that the past two years that now more pro-active in the discussions about the possible political consequences of their decisions. “People on different teams to get used to having policies and product involved in every step of the way,” he said.

Facebook’s vice president of global public policy, Joel Kaplan.
(Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images, File)

Mr. Kaplan’s actions come with the imprimatur of Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, who said that the lawmakers in April that the concerns about the liberal bias on Facebook were fair having regard to the fact that Silicon Valley “is an extremely left-leaning place.”

“The understanding of a wide variety of perspectives … is essential for building products and services that help everyone,” a Facebook spokeswoman said.


This summer, Mr. Kaplan pushed to work together with right-wing news site The Daily Caller’s fact-checking department after conservatives accused Facebook only work with the mainstream publishers, people familiar with the talks said. Conservative critics, these publications had a built-in liberal bias.

Mr. Kaplan suggested that The Daily Caller was accredited by the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida.-based journalism non-profit organization that oversees a network of fact-checkers. Other executives, including a number in the Washington, D. C. office, argued that the publication and print misinformation. The controversial discussion involved Mr. Zuckerberg, who appeared to side with Mr. Kaplan and the company’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The debate ended in November when The Daily Caller fact-checking operation lost its accreditation.

Facebook declined Mr. Kaplan is available for an interview.

Click here to read more from The Wall Street Journal, where this story was originally published.

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