Over the years, social networks have consolidated as a key space for communication with other entities, be they people, institutions or companies, therefore, it is not surprising that firms such as Statista project that for this year they will register up to 3.7 thousand millions of users around the world making use of the different social spaces. However, although it can be understood that platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LiknedIn, etc. They are companies that facilitate contact with others and communication through their service, multiple situations begin to put that perception into play because recently there have been cases that imply that more than being simple communication channels, they are tools of some political current that seeks to affect others to impose its ideology.
The clearest and most recent cases in relation to the above are in Mexico and in the United States, particularly in the latter country with what happened with the now ex-president Donald Trump. At the time, as you may recall, his messages denouncing an alleged fraud in the elections in his country began to be flagged on Twitter for being issues that were still under review and that were not entirely true as he exposed them. Later, his account was blocked, along with that of Facebook and Twitch, considering that his political messages were the ones that incited people to incur riots inside the United States Capitol assuming an attack on the democratic process that confirmed that Joe Biden he had won the election. Faced with the blocking of their accounts, users began to highlight that there was a bias in these platforms, particularly against the Republicans “censoring” Donald Trump, which led several to choose to migrate to the Parler platform as an alternative to Twitter to avoid precisely that supposed bias.
The actions taken by social platforms led more people to wonder if there really is a position on the part of these spaces and even the media began to ask this, for example, an article was published on the BBC asking if there was a bias against Republican conservatives because Trump was not the first time that a situation had arisen that suggested this, previously Twitter had prevented people from sharing a link to a Joe Biden investigation by The New York Times. Thus, the idea that there could be an unfair moderation of content by the social network created by Jack Dorsey was reinforced.
Moving on to the closest case, that of Mexico, this is more recent and has to do with a trend that emerged last Thursday with the hashtag #TwitterEsPanista.
If you were in the middle of the digital conversation, you may have found out that the label was created as a form of protest and denunciation of the suspension of some Twitter accounts, which belong to personalities who are great supporters and promoters of the government in turn and have with great reach.
For those who accuse @TwitterMexico and @HugoRodriguezN of Panistas after the suspension of @ElReyTuitero. https://t.co/j1HaKUUORn pic.twitter.com/8h3EE8sP4T
– Why is it Trend? (@porkestendencia) January 21, 2021
In this case, the idea that there is a bias on the part of this social network comes from the fact that in recent days the president highlighted that one of the platform’s executives was a “militant or sympathizer” very close to the National Action Party, and also stated the idea that he would create his own social network to avoid “censorship” like the one Donald Trump received from his perspective for his messages, thus further reinforcing the idea that Twitter and other networks have a clear political position.
Of course, the president is not the only one who may have that idea, people have also come to consider it more seriously, only in the North American market, a study by the Pew Research Center indicates that 73 percent of people believe that social media intentionally censor political views they find objectionable. But how true is this? Do the major social networks have a political preference or bias?
According to various experts, it is not clear that social platforms such as Facebook or Twitter have a clear political position, rather it is the perception or interpretation that people give to the actions that social networks take against certain messages that imply this idea, in addition to being affected also by the way in which the communities are composed in the different social channels.
Returning to what the BBC shared, an easy way to show that Facebook has nothing against Republican conservatives is in the data of a CrowdTangle study that indicates that in fact in the case of the United States the posts of right-wing figures are those who dominate the most popular political publications of each day, therefore, to say that they have the platform against them is a statement with little support. Of course, this does not mean then that Facebook supports the right and is suppressing the left.
The key to understanding the problem of perception or alleged bias is to note that, for example, in the case of the United States, more controversial content published by right-wing figures is sanctioned than left-wing figures. In the case of the last elections, it was more Republicans who considered and shared that the votes via the postal service were manipulated than the Democrats who had the same idea, Facebook, by acting on this type of content, ended up penalizing more of these Republican publications giving the idea that he has a position against them because they were more affected.
However, outside of sanctions or moderation, if the performance of the posts of both streams is compared, a great difference in performance that could suggest a preference has not been identified, The Verge cites a study by Media Matters for America where he refers that when analyzing the engagement of pages with left and right inclination for 37 weeks, their numbers were similar, in that time the right-wing pages achieved an average of 372 thousand interactions while the left 369 thousand.
The actions of social networks arise based on the policies and rules that they have established on issues such as, precisely, politics and others, and actions are taken the same regardless of who breaks the rules.
Finally, and on the other hand, it must also be taken into account how social networks are formed in terms of their community in general and the political ideology they have, as this influences the content and opinions that are seen. Again, in the case of the United States, the Pew Research Center points out that, for example, on Twitter, 69 percent of the most prolific profiles in this space are Democrats and this generates the idea that Twitter is a more liberal space, although this again does not mean that he is against the conservative wing. However, an aspect like this makes each action against or in favor understood as an attack either on the left or the right or on freedom of expression in general.
Possibly the last thing social networks want is to have to moderate political messages given the perception that this can generate, however, they must do so because part of their responsibilities is the content that is found on their platforms regardless of their bias.