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Op-Ed

Facebook's New 'Click-Gap' Is Anti-Free Speech

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Facebook recently announced that it will introduce the “click-gap signal” into its newsfeed algorithm. According to Facebook, the click-gap signal will help protect its users from low-quality content.

But the new change may actually create a bigger problem for Americans who value the open marketplace of ideas the social media platform once provided.

While the change may cut down on what Facebook deems low-quality content, the more significant outcome will likely be to give the establishment media another step up in Facebook’s newsfeed.

If you are wondering what a click-gap is, then join the crowd. Facebook invented the term, so we are all trying to catch up. Put simply, Facebook is trying to demote domains in its news feed that are getting disproportionately more clicks from inside Facebook than outside of it.

For example, if a website gets a large portion of its pageview traffic from Facebook, but get a small amount from outside of Facebook, then the click-gap signal will now cause Facebook to penalize that website.

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Facebook’s news feed algorithm sorts, promotes and demotes posts from users based on certain signals. There are numerous signals — some that we know about and some that we don’t. The click-gap is simply an additional signal that will now factor into the automated sorting that occurs before Facebook users see any posts in their feed.

Facebook explained it this way:

This new signal, Click-Gap, relies on the web graph, a conceptual “map” of the internet in which domains with a lot of inbound and outbound links are at the center of the graph and domains with fewer inbound and outbound links are at the edges. Click-Gap looks for domains with a disproportionate number of outbound Facebook clicks compared to their place in the web graph. This can be a sign that the domain is succeeding on News Feed in a way that doesn’t reflect the authority they’ve built outside it and is producing low-quality content.

Facebook’s stated purpose for forcing the click-gap signal on its users is that it will cut down on low-quality content. And it certainly may do that.

Do you wish Facebook would show you more conservative content?

But the click-gap signal will cause far more serious problems than it solves.

The click-gap signal is anti-free speech. One of the advantages of a platform like Facebook is that it provides a fertile ground for diverse voices to be heard. It is easier to post a link to Facebook than to be published in the Op-Ed section of The New York Times. Despite what it looks like, not just anyone can get an interview with CNN. Facebook gives — or rather gave — younger, smaller, less established voices a place where they could be heard.

Not so anymore. Or at least not with any hope of success. Facebook is telling websites that unless they already have a big audience outside of Facebook, they shouldn’t come to Facebook looking for help.

Here’s a question for you, Mr. Zuckerberg: Who already has an established audience outside of Facebook? Which websites already have thousands and thousands of other websites linking to them? Oh, right. It’s the mainstream media. It’s The New York Times. It’s The Washington Post. It’s CNN. Sure, Fox News is in there too. But I’m not going out on a limb in saying that the vast majority of the established, legacy media has a noticeable leftist lean to its coverage.

The publication you are currently reading, The Western Journal, grew to its current size in the environment of freedom that Facebook used to foster. But now, Facebook is more likely to put smaller and newer publications in distress with little to no recourse.

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The irony is that Facebook is essentially punishing the publishers that became skilled at using Facebook. It’s the ultimate display of socialistic thought. Facebook is saying “when we let everyone have a free shot at the market, we don’t like the winners.”

Many high-quality publishers correctly saw that Facebook was a great tool to use in starting their businesses. So they jumped in, became masters within the Facebook environment and have evolved into excellent resources for news and entertainment.

If a website is small and wants to stay small, or it is an exclusively local website, then the click-gap signal won’t be a big deal.

But even if an unestablished website has exciting, entertaining and excellent content, it can’t count on Facebook as a means to have their voice heard. Facebook wants to make sure that it doesn’t reward those that might get “too good” at Facebook.

I’m not the only one to notice this. According to Wired, “Click-Gap could be bad news for fringe sites that optimize their content to go viral on Facebook. Some of the most popular stories on Facebook come not from mainstream sites that also get lots of traffic from search or directly, but rather from small domains specifically designed to appeal to Facebook’s algorithms.”

Hey Facebook, has it ever occurred to you that you have no idea what the American people want to read?

Remember that Facebook is talking about demoting posts from pages that its users already want to follow.

Imagine going to the grocery store and loading up your cart with the items you want to buy. After carefully selecting all the things on which you want to spend your hard earned money, you head to the front of the store. There you are greeted by the store manager by the name Zark Muckerberg.

Zark informs you that despite the fact that you have chosen to purchase those items and regardless of your reason, he will perform an audit of your selections. Zark then tells you to close your eyes while he takes half of the items out of your cart — but won’t allow you to know which ones or why.

But Zark isn’t done. He slyly grins and tells you that the store’s new click-gap policy now is going to replace some of your remaining items with more established brands. Oh, you don’t like the taste? Sorry. Enjoy a mouthful of choiceless totalitarianism. Zark promises it’s better for you anyway.

To give you some real data, when The Western Journal posts a link on its main Facebook page, we consider it to be a good story if Facebook shows it to 100,000 people. Nevermind that over 5 million people follow our page. That means that only 2 percent of our audience will see our content — merely because Facebook declares it to be so.

Facebook says it believes in free speech but apparently only if that speech comes from inside the buildings in New York City, Washington, D.C. or Silicon Valley.

If Facebook wants to be a narrow lane for only one kind of thought, then it has that right, but it claims to be a broad platform that welcomes everyone. The click-gap signal is the latest reminder that despite what it says on its walls or on its blog posts, Facebook is far more diverse in the viewpoints that it silences than with the ones it permits.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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G.S. Hair is the former executive editor of The Western Journal.
G.S. Hair is the former executive editor of The Western Journal and vice president of digital content of Liftable Media.

After graduating law school from the Cecil C. Humphries School of Law, Mr. Hair spent a decade as an attorney practicing at the trial and appellate level in Arkansas and Tennessee. He represented clients in civil litigation, contractual disputes, criminal defense and domestic matters. He spent a significant amount of time representing indigent clients who could not afford private counsel in civil or criminal matters. A desire for justice and fairness was a driving force in Mr. Hair's philosophy of representation. Inspired by Christ’s role as an advocate on our behalf before God, he often represented clients who had no one else to fight on their behalf.

Mr. Hair has been a consultant for Republican political candidates and has crafted grassroots campaign strategies to help mobilize voters in staunchly Democrat regions of the Eastern United States.

In early 2015, he began writing for Conservative Tribune. After the site was acquired by Liftable Media, he shut down his law practice, moved to Arizona and transitioned into the position of site director. He then transitioned to vice president of content. In 2018, after Liftable Media folded all its brands into The Western Journal, he was named executive editor. His mission is to advance conservative principles and be a positive and truthful voice in the media.

He is married and has four children. He resides in Phoenix, Arizona.
Birthplace
South Carolina
Education
Homeschooled (and proud of it); B.A. Mississippi College; J.D. University Of Memphis
Location
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Culture, Faith, Politics




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