Thanks to input by the company’s lone politically conservative executive, Facebook has shelved a program they were calling “Common Ground” which was meant to help liberals and conservatives come together.
The project was in the research phase and would have encouraged their users to interact in a positive way and see things from someone else’s perspective.
Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s global policy chief and former White House aide to President George W. Bush, put an end to the idea because of the possibility it would make the company look biased against conservatives.
According to The Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall) the initiative consisted of boosting news stories and status updates by those on the opposite end of the political spectrum from the users’ personal beliefs.
Kaplan said he believed that the company’s efforts to fend off political polarization would open up the platform to criticism from conservatives about left-wing bias.
The project was ultimately shelved after it was decided that user engagement could be damaged if there was constant tension on a user’s newsfeed.
Kaplan, who was described by Fox News as “Facebook’s protector against allegations of political bias,” has been given the deciding vote on hot-button political issues, according to Fox’s report.
“Mr. Kaplan personifies an unresolved tension within Facebook amid the drumbeat of criticism since the 2016 presidential election: The company has set a goal of minimizing polarization and misinformation, but it is increasingly wary of being perceived as being partisan,” Fox reported.
“Many current and former Facebook insiders argue that the company’s desire to avoid criticism from conservatives prevents it from fully tackling broader issues on the platform,” the report continued.
Changes, which began in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, are still taking some Facebook employees a long time to adjust to, according to Facebook Vice President Guy Rosen.
“People on different teams are getting used to having policy and product involved every step of the way,” Rosen said according to Fox.
Along with pushing to end projects that could be problematic for conservatives, Kaplan has also attempted to incorporate conservative media into the platform.
Fox News reported that during the summer, Kaplan pushed for Facebook to partner with The Daily Caller’s fact-checking division.
This would have calmed some concerns among conservatives that Facebook would only partner with “mainstream” publishers and combat the aura of liberal bias.
Kaplan argued that The Daily Caller’s accreditation by The Poynter Institute, which is a Florida based nonprofit that oversees fact-checkers, made it a viable candidate.
Kaplan was reportedly supported by Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, and contested by Chief Executive, Mark Zuckerberg.
That project was also put away, however, when The Daily Caller lost its accreditation.
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