Facebook Is Not a Big Player in National Politics

Brendan Nyhan has a warning for us about Facebook:

Nyhan’s point is that there’s no particular conservative bias in this list. I’d make a second point: Most of these posts aren’t partisan or political in the first place. Those of us who follow politics as a hobby think that it’s the most important thing in the world, but the rest of the world doesn’t agree. The readership of most political sites is tiny compared to the readership of sports blogs or mommy blogs or gossip blogs.

This is one of the reasons I’m untroubled about Facebook’s decision not to police political advertisements. I’m no fan of Facebook, but that’s mainly because of their dismal record on things like privacy and data portability. When it comes to political influence, however, there’s little reason to think they play an outsize role. On the contrary, their political influence is minuscule compared to Fox News and talk radio and Drudge and the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

We should be concerned about organized foreign influence on Facebook. We should be concerned about Facebook taking an active censorship role. We should be concerned about Facebook allowing third parties to use private information for political purposes. But taking a hands-off approach to political ads? On a scale of one to ten, it’s maybe a two at most. It’s just not worth getting worked up about.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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