For months now, Republicans have been pushing an evidence-free conspiracy theory that big tech companies are censoring conservative voices. It’s become a campaign issue. Last month, Donald Trump Jr. went so far as to say that he’ll focus on the “online censorship” issue this fall during campaign stops for Republican candidates.
“I think there is, and I think there is ample evidence,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Fox News in July, in one indicative comment. “It’s one after another after another, and it’s often related directly to the algorithm that got changed.”
But there is, in fact, exactly zero evidence indicating conservatives are being disproportionately targeted by any online platform.
Traffic numbers and search results for coverage of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh illustrate the absurdity of the GOP talking point. Not only are right-wing sites not being censored, in many instances they are dominating the marketplcae.
According to New York Times social media reporter Kevin Roose, an overwhelming majority of Wednesday’s top-performing posts on Facebook related to the Kavanaugh story came from right-wing websites.
Sources of today's top performing Facebook posts about Kavanaugh, per @crowdtangle:
1. Fox News
2. Ben Shapiro
3. CNSNews ("News the Lefty Media Doesn't Want You to Have")
About Dr. Ford:
1. Fox News
3. Daily Caller
— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) October 3, 2018
This was also the case on Monday.
Sources of the top performing FB posts about Dr. Ford in the last 24 hours, per CrowdTangle:
1. Fox News
3. Ben Shapiro
4. Ben Shapiro
5. Daily Caller
6. Bernie Sanders
7. Fox News
— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) October 1, 2018
It’s not just Facebook. Searching for Dr. Ford’s name on YouTube on Thursday directed people to mostly right-wing videos.
The first four results for a YouTube search for "christine blasey ford" in Incognito Mode:
1) Fox News clip from Tucker Carlson's show.
2) Fox Business clip from Lou Dobbs' show
3) Fox News clip from The Five
4) The Blaze clip from Glenn Beck's show pic.twitter.com/cUreqjekK3
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) October 4, 2018
The Republican talking point has already proven impervious to refutation, however. ThinkProgress debunked Diamond & Silk’s Facebook censorship claim in April, but that didn’t stop Republican members of Congress from holding multiple hearings about purported censorship of conservatives.
Republicans push the conspiracy theory with impunity on Fox News, but it hasn’t gone as well for them on mainstream platforms. In May, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) went on CNN and defended using Congress’ time and money to hold a hearing on Diamond & Silk’s censorship claim by citing a well-known conspiracy website, Gateway Pundit. But after host Chris Cuomo pointed out to King that data doesn’t support his conspiracy, King quickly changed the topic to bashing Hillary Clinton.
During an interview on ABC last month, Donald Trump Jr. resorted to citing Republican complaints as evidence that censorship is occurring.
“There’s only one side complaining about it happening,” Trump Jr. claimed.