Throughout 2020, Democrats have denounced Facebook with growing ferocity as a “right-wing echo chamber” with a “conservative bias” that’s giving an edge to Donald Trump in November.
But Facebook says there’s a reason why right-wing figures are driving more engagement. It’s not that its algorithm favors conservatives — the company has long maintained that its platform is neutral. Instead, the right is better at connecting with people on a visceral level, it says.
“Right-wing populism is always more engaging,” a Facebook executive said in a recent interview with POLITICO reporters, when pressed why the pages of conservatives drive such high interactions. The person said the content speaks to “an incredibly strong, primitive emotion” by touching on such topics as “nation, protection, the other, anger, fear.”
“That was there in the 30’s. That’s not invented by social media — you just see those reflexes mirrored in social media, they’re not created by social media,” the executive added. “It’s why tabloids do better than the [Financial Times], and it’s also a human thing. People respond to engaging emotion much more than they do to, you know, dry coverage. …This wasn’t invented 15 years ago when Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook.”
In the final stretch of the 2020 campaign, the Facebook posts with the most engagement in the United States most days — measured by likes, comments, shares, and reactions — are from conservative voices outside the mainstream media: Dan Bongino, Ben Shapiro, David Harris, Jr., Franklin Graham, and “Blue Lives Matter,” according to the Facebook-owned tool Crowdtangle. Trump’s personal page also regularly makes the top of the list, in effect allowing him to become a publisher in his own right and navigate around the traditional media.
Left-wing posts make the daily top-25 much less frequently. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and the Facebook savvy Occupy Democrats are among the pages that occasionally hit such levels of engagement.