Undercover videos indicate that some Facebook content moderators actively focus on posts that are supportive of President Donald Trump, revealing political bias in the company’s policing efforts.
In addition, one former moderator, Zach McElroy, indicated that at least one Facebook algorithm seemed designed to flag predominantly right-leaning content.
McElroy, who spoke to investigative journalism nonprofit Project Veritas, said he’d be willing to testify under oath about what he saw.
Material identified by Facebook algorithms as potential “civic harassment” is queued to moderators who are supposed to determine whether it violates Facebook’s policies and should be deleted.
The problem of bias is two-fold, McElroy said. First, the posts flagged for review are predominantly right-leaning.
“I saw upwards of 75 to 80 percent of the posts in that queue were from Republican pages—politicians, journalists, and pages that supported the president or supported conservatives,” he said, noting that “somebody had to design that algorithm.”
Second, the moderators, working directly for Facebook or through contractors, are predominantly left-leaning themselves and many have applied personal political preferences to their work, even going beyond Facebook’s content policies, McElroy said.
“In speaking with a lot of them, I’ve 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 get penalized for it,” he said in a Project Veritas video released on June 23.
McElroy and Veritas’s undercover reporters recorded several of the moderators on a hidden camera. Some moderators said they simply delete anything conservative or pro-Trump that comes up. At least some of them, it appeared, were close to being laid off or leaving their jobs, which seemed to influence how far they were willing to go.
“You don’t let any go, do you? Like, if you see a conservative post, you just get rid of it, right?” a reporter is heard asking in one undercover clip.
“Yes. I don’t give no [expletive]. I’ll delete it,” replies the person, identified by Project Veritas as a content moderator working for Cognizant, a company contracted by Facebook to handle part of its manual content moderation.
Facebook and Cognizant didn’t respond to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.
The moderator indicated she had one week left at the job.
“You told me that you just whack all the conservative posts, they’re just gone,” a reporter is heard asking another person, also identified as Facebook moderator at Cognizant.
“Yup,” the person replies.
In another clip, the same person says posts supportive of Trump, such as “#MAGA” or #MAGA2020” are political speech, and Facebook, by policy, leaves them. She, however, deletes them anyway.
“Deleted,” the insider says.
“Yeah,” she replies.
If a post makes Trump supporters look bad, on the other hand, she said she would leave it alone, even if the post violates Facebook policy.
“If you see something that’s not supposed to be up, it’s probably me,” she said.
When asked how many other moderators were also deleting “all the Trump posts,” she said there were “probably like 16 of us”; she may have been referring to her particular office and shift.
Another content moderator was recorded as saying that Facebook applies different standards to right-leaning and left-leaning content. If the content is directed against a right-leaning personality, anything is allowed except talk about killing the person, he said. If the content focuses on a left-leaning personality, the threshold for deletion is lower. Anything derogatory that’s related to race, for example, would be grounds for deletion.
“I will delete all Republicans … on my last day,” one person identified as Cognizant moderator was recorded as saying.
“I would so do that though,” a reporter responds.
“If someone is wearing a MAGA hat, I’m going to delete them for terrorism and just going to, like, go crazy,” the moderator added.
McElroy criticized the content policing “formula” established by Facebook.
“You’ve got a workplace full of mostly liberal-leaning Democrats, leftists essentially, and they’re being put in charge of moderating the entire public discourse,” he said. “Facebook and Instagram are very large platforms, one of the biggest, and our voices are in the hands of people who are almost entirely left-leaning, not right-leaning or otherwise unbiased.”
“I know a lot of people were taking down, you know, Trump posts,” McElroy is heard saying in an undercover clip.
“Oh yeah. I knew that too,” a person identified as a content moderator responds. “I was like, you know what? I’m not going to hold you accountable for taking it down. We have like 30 minutes left. I’m like, what do you want me to do?”
“It’s for the better,” McElroy then says.
“Yeah. … Yeah. … Got to get the cheeto [Trump] out of office,” the moderator replies.
In another clip, McElroy is talking to a group of people in an office.
“I’m thinking, delete like every Donald Trump post I see on the timeline,” he says.
“Oh, okay, I thought I was the only one,” one woman responds, later adding, “I thought I was the only one doing it, okay?”
She said she “felt spiteful.”
“Revenge for all the [expletive] I have to see,” she said.
Some content moderators at Cognizant have complained about working conditions, and some felt traumatized by being exposed to abhorrent content, such as child abuse and graphic violence, according to previous reporting.