by Chuck Ross
A study from New York University released on Monday that dismisses conservative allegations of Big Tech bias and calls for President Joe Biden to establish a Digital Regulatory Agency was funded by Craig Newmark, a billionaire tech titan who donated $100,000 to Biden’s campaign victory fund.
The study, entitled “False Accusation: The Unfounded Claim that Social Media Companies Censor Conservatives,” also defends decisions by Facebook and Twitter to both ban President Donald Trump from their platforms last month, and to limit circulation of a story from The New York Post weeks before the election about emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop.
The report says that Facebook and Twitter made “reasonable decisions” in both instances.
It also states that the New York Post story about Biden’s laptop was based on “stolen material,” a claim that Hunter Biden himself has not made.
The study, which was first touted in a story in The Washington Post, also accuses conservatives of pushing “political disinformation” through their accusations that tech companies harbor anti-conservative bias.
“The false bias narrative is an example of political disinformation, meaning an untrue assertion that is spread to deceive. In this instance, the deception whips up part of the conservative base, much of which already bitterly distrusts the mainstream media,” reads the study, authored by Paul M. Barrett and J. Grant Sims of the NYU Stern School of Business.
Conservatives’ allegations of bias are based on “distortions and falsehoods,” Barrett and Sims wrote.
The researchers asserted that conservatives’ claims of bias warrants the creation of a Digital Regulatory Agency, which would oversee social media companies.
“The false claim of anti-conservative bias has contributed to widespread distrust in the platforms’ willingness and ability to govern their sites,” the researchers said.
“As an alternative, expanded jurisdiction and funding for social media oversight could be given to an existing agency, such as the Federal Trade Commission or Federal Communications Commission.”
Conservatives, led by Trump and a handful of Republican lawmakers, have accused companies like Twitter and Facebook of censoring prominent Republicans on their social media platforms, either by banning conservatives outright or curtailing their ability to post on the site.
Google has faced similar allegations that it has tailored its algorithm to bury links to conservative news organizations.
The NYU researchers dismissed those complaints by citing substantial web traffic for conservative news organizations on sites like Facebook.
A chart in the study based on data from the web metric company CrowdTangle shows that conservative sites like Fox News and Breitbart had more social engagements — likes, shares and comments — on Facebook than did other news outlets.
The Daily Caller ranked 8th on the list, with 97 million interactions through October 2020.
The data cited in the study may not tell the full story of which websites are boosted on Facebook. A Facebook executive told Business Insider in July that while conservative sites perform well in terms of engagement, more liberal news organizations like BuzzFeed, MSNBC and ABC News outperform in terms of “reach,” a measure of how many people see content in their news feeds.
The NYU researchers relied on input from employees from Google, Twitter and Facebook for their “time and insight” for the study, according to the acknowledgement section of the report. No conservative groups appear to have been consulted for the study.
The authors noted Newmark’s financial support for the project, but did not describe his political leanings.
Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, gave $100,000 to the Biden Victory Fund, a political committee affiliated with the Biden campaign, and $35,500 to the DNC in June 2020, according to Federal Election Commission records.
He donated tens of thousands of dollars to President Obama’s campaign, the Hillary Clinton campaign and to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
He told Forbes magazine last year that he planned to donate up to $200 million to fight online disinformation, fund journalism outfits, and help defeat Trump.
Barrett, the lead researcher on the study, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that he did not believe it was necessary to disclose Newmark’s political contributions.
“It was enough to disclose that Craig Newmark provides the Center with financial support,” Barrett said in an email.
He said that in order to obtain a conservative view of the censorship debate he watched live streams of congressional events, read congressional transcripts, consulted White House documents and reviewed President Trump’s public statements criticizing tech companies.
On the report’s defense of censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story, Barrett asserted that theft, hacking or some other malfeasance is the only explanation for how The New York Post obtained Biden’s emails.
The owner of a computer repair shop in Delaware has claimed that Biden dropped his laptop off at his store in April 2019 and never retrieved it.
The shop owner, John Paul Mac Isaac, has denied stealing the device or hacking it. He has said that he provided the laptop to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani through an associate. Giuliani shared documents from the purported laptop with The Post and other news outlets, including The Daily Caller.
“How would the alleged Hunter Biden emails have ended up in the hands of Rudy Giuliani and others hostile to the Biden family if they were not stolen, hacked, or otherwise misappropriated?” Barrett asked in an email.
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Chuck Ross is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Craig Newmark” by Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies. CC BY 4.0.