During Wednesday’s House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee hearing, conservative lawmakers once again alleged that Facebook is biased against right-leaning content. In fact, as previous Media Matters studies have consistently shown, content from right-leaning pages regularly outperforms that of left-leaning and ideologically nonaligned pages -- and the week leading up to the July 29 hearing was no exception.
Media Matters analyzed over 167,000 Facebook posts published between 1 p.m. EDT on July 22 and 1 p.m. EDT on July 29 from right-leaning, left-leaning, and ideologically nonaligned Facebook pages that regularly post content about U.S. news and politics. We found that for a week prior to the start of the House Judiciary antitrust hearing, content from right-leaning Facebook pages significantly outperformed content from left-leaning or ideologically nonaligned sources -- even though right-leaning pages produced fewer overall posts.
This analysis comes after numerous Media Matters studies have quantified that conservative content not only thrives on Facebook, but also dominates. Even Facebook’s own audit (steered by conservatives) was unable to produce any quantifiable evidence to support allegations of systemic bias. In the past year alone, right-leaning content about voting and protests against police brutality has outperformed left-leaning or nonaligned posts -- despite frequently containing harmful misinformation. In this latest analysis of posts made in the days leading up to the July 29 hearing, Media Matters found right-leaning posts once again dominated.
- Right-leaning Facebook pages earned nearly 174 million interactions on almost 40,000 posts, or approximately 47% of all interactions, even though it accounted for almost 24% of the posts.
- Left-leaning pages earned approximately 106 million interactions on almost 47,000 posts, or approximately 29% of all interactions, while accounting for almost 28% of the posts.
- Ideologically nonaligned pages earned approximately 88 million interactions on roughly 80,000 posts, or approximately 24% of all interactions, even though it accounted for nearly 48% of posts.
- Of the 10 posts with the most engagements, seven were from right-leaning pages and four of these seven were from President Donald Trump’s Facebook account.
Claims of anti-conservative censorship are as inaccurate as they are self-serving. And conservatives will continue to make them (despite having no evidence to prove their allegations) so long as Facebook capitulates to conservative demands at the mere suggestion of right-wing ire.
Media Matters compiled a list of 1,223 Facebook pages that pertain to news and media outlets, media figures, politicians, political parties, and issue-focused advocacy groups. Each page in this study also had over 500,000 page likes, had primarily English-language content, and posted content related to U.S. political news.
Two researchers independently coded pages, and a third researcher independently reconciled conflicts between the two datasets. Researchers coded pages for two factors: (1) content related to political news, and (2) ideological alignment (left-leaning, right-leaning, nonaligned, or “other”). We reviewed each page individually, and we only included pages that regularly focused on news about American politics.
We determined the ideological alignment of a page by a page’s name, information in the “About” section, the page owner, and posts. We coded pages that expressed opposition to President Donald Trump or focused on issues primarily aimed at liberals (e.g., protecting abortion rights, calling for action against gun violence, etc.) as left-leaning.
We coded pages that expressed support for Trump or focused on issues primarily aimed at conservatives (e.g., restricting abortion rights, downplaying gun violence, etc.) as right-leaning.
We coded all pages for right-wing and left-wing media outlets as right-leaning or left-leaning, respectively. We coded pages that did not have an ideological leaning in their content as nonaligned.
If we had any doubt about whether to code a page as nonaligned or left-leaning, we erred on coding the page as left-leaning. We coded pages as “other” if they did not fit in any of the above categories or if they contained a mix of left-leaning and right-leaning content. We excluded these pages from the final dataset.
The resulting list of pages was comprised of 384 right-leaning pages, 377 nonaligned pages, 435 left-leaning pages, and 27 “other.”
We compiled and reviewed the data, including total interactions --reactions, comments, and shares -- of Facebook posts shared by our list of 1,196 Facebook pages, excluding pages coded as “other,” between 1 p.m. EDT on July 22 and 1 p.m. EDT on July 29 (the start of the House Judiciary subcommittee hearing).
The resulting dataset included 167,647 posts from 359 right-leaning pages, 410 left-leaning pages, and 367 ideologically nonaligned pages.