The NYU Study: The Claim Of Anti-Conservative Bias In Social Media Is Unfounded But Inconclusive?

There has been much press about the  New York University study, “False Accusation: The Unfounded Claim that Social Media Companies Censor Conservatives.” It is being touted by the media as establishing that any allegations of bias against conservatives is “disinformation,” the term used by authors Paul M. Barrett and J. Grant Sims of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. That term of course is now used as a basis for flagging or censoring material. The problem is that the study is largely conclusory and, though buried in the study, acknowledges that it is not based on any real hard data and is therefore “inconclusive.”

Conservatives have hit the study as funded by Craig Newmark, a billionaire tech titan who is a major donor to Biden and Democratic candidates. Newmark has reportedly supported groups in favor of blacklisting and called on Big Tech to take action against “bad actors.” However, the authors did reveal Newmark’s funding and, while Barrett has also been attacked for a record allegedly supporting Big Tech, the credibility of the study would be judged on its actual support and analysis.

It is really two lines in the study that is the most serious problem in my view:

The question of whether social media companies harbor an anti-conservative bias can’t be answered conclusively because the data available to academic and civil society researchers aren’t sufficiently detailed. Existing periodic enforcement disclosures by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are helpful but not granular enough to allow for thorough analysis by outsiders.

So the study is not actually based on a review of individuals and groups censored by these companies because the companies refuse to release the data. Much of the rest of study seems strikingly conclusory and at points apologist.  For example, the blocking of the Hunter Biden story before the election was a disgraceful decision for which the Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later apologized. The authors largely dismiss the entire incident as a simple mistake:

“The Post/Biden imbroglio, in retrospect, seems like a case of reasonable decisions wrapped in mystifying processes. Facebook generally tries to stop posts from spreading if there are “signals” of falsehood. But as in the Post/Biden case, the company doesn’t disclose what those signals are, leaving onlookers to speculate. For its part, Twitter froze the Post/Biden story based on a rule against sharing hacked material. But under fire from conservatives, Twitter backed down, saying that from now on, it would ban hacked material only if it is directly shared by hackers or their accomplices.”

The problem is that the story itself clearly stated that the information did not come from hacked material but Hunter Biden’s own abandoned laptop. Moreover, major newspapers regularly publish information from insiders and whistleblowers like that contained in the New York Post story.  Yet, the authors just dismiss that matter as confusion while citing conservative pressure on the company for its changing positions.

At every turn, the authors portray controversies as at best anecdotal or unsupported while acknowledging that it does not have the data to actually determine if there is a pattern of bias. It does not indicate any substantial insights or new information on the internal deliberations at companies like Twitter. Most of what is in the study is based on previously known and discussed facts. It simply presents those facts as a case in support of Big Tech on the allegation of bias.

The study also offers little on the striking contrast of companies banning figures like Donald Trump but allowing others to continue to justify violence or spout hate toward conservatives. We previously discussed professors who have called for killing Trump supporters.  Others seem to justify violence. Rhode Island Professor Erik Loomis who writes for the site Lawyers, Guns, and Money and declared that he saw “nothing wrong” with the killing of a conservative protester. (A view defended by other academics). Other professors have simply called for all “Republicans to suffer.”

In the end, I would be interested in looking at the actual data and would keep an open mind on the results. Ironically, my problem is with the entire premise of the expanding system of censorship regardless of how it is implemented. Free speech is my bias.  The authors openly support “moderation” which is the preferred term for censorship in our new world of speech controls. This is why I recently described myself as an Internet Originalist:

The alternative is “internet originalism” — no censorship. If social media companies returned to their original roles, there would be no slippery slope of political bias or opportunism; they would assume the same status as telephone companies. We do not need companies to protect us from harmful or “misleading” thoughts. The solution to bad speech is more speech, not approved speech.

Yet, this study is neither conclusive or particularly compelling. It read more like an extended, 20-page opinion editorial. It does seem itself to have a pronounced bias, particularly in declaring allegations of bias as “false” and “disinformation” while quietly noting that it cannot conclusively say whether there is bias.

106 thoughts on “The NYU Study: The Claim Of Anti-Conservative Bias In Social Media Is Unfounded But Inconclusive?”

  1. I can’t wait for their next report exposing alleged widespread bias against conservative speakers on college campuses as a myth. Working Title: “Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain.”

  2. Conservatives have hit the study as funded by Craig Newmark, a billionaire tech titan who is a major donor to Biden and Democratic candidates.

    He’s more than that, He’s a major player in the Left’s censorship efforts. He knows the study is bogus because he personally is doing what the study claims is not happening.

  3. While there are a few who have callously questioned the existence of the Emperors new robes, some going even so far as to suggest he was wearing nothing at all, the rest of the nation agrees that his new robes are absolutely fabulous.

  4. The study is a reflection of the core problem.

    Those on the left would deny that the sun will rise tomorow if it did not suit their ideology.

    There is not a “most troubling passage”.

    The troubling thing is that someone felt the need to study whether the sun will rise tomorow and concluded probably not.

    1. What are we to make of the Trump loyalists on the right who insist that Trump won the November ’20 election by a landslide and the election was “stolen”? I don’t deny there are fantasists on the left, but they didn’t gather in the tens of thousands on the strength of their leaders’ myths and storm the Capitol Building on 1/6.

      1. The 2020 election was inarguably lawless. States did not follow their own election laws and constitutions – any conclusions about winners and losers after that are just speculation. When an election is conducted outside the law – I have no problem with people claiming the election was “stolen”.

        There is no such thing as the winner of a lawless election.

        But if we are going to speculate – I do not think it is LIKELY that Trump won in a landslide, But i do think it is entirely possible.

        Of course that depends on how you define a landslide.

        There are some that claim Trump won the popular vote. I have heard people claim Trump won California.

        I think the odds against wither of those are very small.

        At the same time I think the odds that Biden won the electoral college after actually eliminating fraudulent votes is barely above zero.

        Had Voter ID states done meaningful voter ID verification of mailin Ballots – Biden would have lost – probably 5 of 6 “swing states”.

        Had voting been restricted to in person and for cause absentee ballots – as 5 of 6 swing states constitutionally require – Biden would have lost BIG.

        That is of course speculation – but it is reasonable speculation.

      2. Mr. Perry,

        I have been fighting for election integrity since 2000 Bush Vs. Gore.

        I did not vote for Trump in 2016 or 2020.

        We have had myriads of razor thin elections since 2000. The 2000 election should have been a wake up call.

        The Bushies used it as a means to impose voting machines on us all – that was a very stupid mistake.
        Mostly the voting terminals seem to be gone now – atleast in my state.

        What was necescary then – and even more so NOW, is elections laws, processes and procedures to assure that the outcome of elections is trustworthy – especially that the supporters of the losing candidate can be persuaded that the PROCESS was fair and honest.

        When the election is lawless – that is not possible.

        It is not all that hard to run an election in a fashion that the results can be trusted.

        But the 2020 election is a TEXTBOOK example of how to NOT run a trust worthy election.

        You complain about those who beleive the eleciton was stolen and who came to the capital to protest.

        The election was conducted outside the law. It was conducted using opaque and know untrustworthy processes.

        That alone justifies – not what happened at the Capital on the 6th – but much worse.

        I do not know what the polls are now – but through to the 6th a plurality of americans beleived that the election results could not be trusted.

        That is absolutely disasterous. You can not have legitimate government (and you do not), when elections can not be trusted.

        I would note that Trust is far more important for the agenda of the left than the right.

        The default when we can not agree is ALWAYS to do nothing, or to maintain the status quo.

        I do not agree with many of Trump’s “policies” – though I rarely agree with the left when Trump is wrong.

        As an example – I do not agree with Trump on immigration. But Trump did follow the law as it currently exists.
        Biden, Obama, Democrats make it up as they go along – precisely the same stupidity they did with the 2020 election.

        Following the existing law is the DEFAULT – where there is not super majority support for change.

        There was actually super majority support for many of Trump’s policies – even ones I disagree with.

        There is not even majority support for much of what democrats are doing – and have done for decades.

        As an example – while there was majority support for Health Care reform, there was NOT majority (much less super majority) support for ANY specific healthcare reform – much less Obama Care.

        Super Majority support is just ONE of several criteria that must be met to justify the use of force against others over their objections.

        All Law and govenrment is the use of force against people over their objections.

      3. What happened at the capital on the 6th was the natural result of a lawless and opaque election.

        The left should be thankful it was not far worse.

        At Lexington and Concorde the minutemen killed 73 British soldiers.

        I would suggest reading the declaration of independence.

        There is a point at which lawless government justifies the use of VIOLENCE.

        I would further note that is a significant difference between the right and left TODAY.

        The right today is not trying to silence the left.

        That is an absolutely stupid move.
        There are only two possible results.
        Electoral victory by the right, or victory by the right by violence.

        I would prefer the former.

        The more effort is made to supress differing viewpoints the more likely violence is.

        The more successful the supression of more “moderate” voices the more extreme the response will be.

        You should read Timothy McVeigh’s justification of the OKC bombing.

        McVeigh was wrong, but he was the predictable result of bad acts by government.

        I would further note that viewpoint supression can never be limited to the most extreme or to one ideology.
        It can not even be limited to falsehoods. And when you supress someone you make them your enemy.

      4. How would you propose handling those who hold views you think are “fantasist” – whether left or right ?

        “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
        Louis D. Brandeis Whitney V. California.

        The biggest error at the capital on the 6th was the failure to listen to those on the right you think are delusional.

        Did we have a lawful election ? No!
        Did we count votes transparently ? No!
        Did we properly address the concerns of those who you claim beleived in falsehood and falacies ? No!

        Education is not accomoplished by force.

        If you did not want 10,000 people marching on the capital, being willing to examine the actual evidence regarding the election. To follow the truth wherever it lead would be a big first step.

        The courts, the left and the media desparately sought to whitewash this election – and what happened on Jan 6th is because they failed.

  5. Anybody that has looked or studied social media can see very clearly the platform helped Trump in 2016. And if the MSM would have done it’s job and reported the facts of Trump’s businesses and his mental unfitness’s for the job, then he would have never gotten close. Remember, Trump’s running for President was a exercise in branding, and both MSM and social media made it happen. Both were to busy reporting about e-mails, I wonder how that turned out?

    1. Odd you do not mention the Election where the media did the exact same thing…ignoring Biden’s Mental disability due to Dementia and conduct that would disqualify him for being unfit for the Office.

      Again it also involved E-Mails….again it did not want to discuss those E-Mails.

      This time we know how it turned out….except the media is not asking why it did turn out the way it did.

      1. Ralph, our candidate cleaned Trump’s clock in the debates and obviously if you cared about the President knowing anything you wouldn’t have supported an ignoramus with no desire to learn anything, like Trump.

        1. Really ?

          Biden was a disaster in the debates. Worse he lied repeatedly.

          As time has passed – more of those lies have been exposed.
          I would note that many of his lies were to YOU, not to me.

          As President Biden is getting a bit of a free ride – because everyone knows he is incompetent.
          And we do not hold incompetents to the same moral standards.

          But YOU elected an incompetent.


    Article IV, Section 4

    The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government,…

    “[We gave you] a republic, if you can keep it.”

    – Ben Franklin, 1787



    b (1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law

    Never was one man, one vote democracy the design or intent of the American Founders.

    America was established as a restricted-vote republic.

    One man, one vote democracy always fails, resulting in dictatorship.

    By law, the presidential election of 1788 sustained a turnout of 11.6%.

    The 2020 election was stolen by Deep Deep State communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs) who abhor freedom.

    America is now a one-party state, communist dictatorship; the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

    The entire American communist welfare state is unconstitutional.

    The free American republic persisted for only 72 years.

    After the engineered 1860 election (Lincoln 38.9% – 2M for, 3M against), “Crazy Abe” Lincoln’s totalitarian and wholly unconstitutional “Reign of Terror” commenced nearly simultaneously with the 1848 publication

    of the Communist Manifesto (communist abolition of slavery must have occurred, per the Constitution, through advocacy, boycott, divestiture, etc. – no country in history ended slavery through war).

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the people discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always

    votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy–to be followed by a dictatorship.”

    – Alexander Tytler

    “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and

    to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    – Declaration of Independence, 1776




    Sal Sar


    Regular readers of this blog know that Johnathan Turley promotes conservative victimhood on an almost daily basis. And this column is certainly no exception.

    Turley mentions the “disgraceful” suppression of the Hunter Biden story that was supposed to be the October surprise that upended the fall campaign. Trumpers actually felt a sense of entitlement regarding that story. Like they were ‘cheated’ out of an October surprise that was ‘rightfully’ theirs!

    The Hunter Biden story originated in The New York Post which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News. The story, however, was written by Sean Hannity’s former producer who had never been a regular contributor to The New York Post. So the story was, for all intents and purposes, a Fox News release by way of The New York Post.

    It came out latter that Rudolph Guiliani had traveled to Ukraine months earlier to gather dirt on Hunter Biden. The Hunter Biden story was essentially Guiliani’s endeavor; an October surprise long in the making. The story got extensive play in rightwing media but Turley seems to argue that mainstream media had an obligation to play the story wide.

    This argument that mainstream media has an obligation to give extensive coverage to a rightwing media story raises an obvious question. ‘Does rightwing media have an obligation to give equal coverage to stories originating in mainstream media??’ One has to ask because only a week before the Hunter Biden story debuted in The New York Post, The New York Times ran an extensive piece analyzing Donald Trump’s business career.

    That Times story confirmed that the vast bulk of Trump’s fortune was inherited from his father, Fred. Most Times readers had already known this. Yet during his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump brazenly bragged that he himself had built most of his fortune on a million dollar loan his father advanced him.

    The Times also revealed that much of Trump’s fortune was leveraged on often dubious tax avoidance schemes. Trump, in fact, currently faces possible prosecution for some of those schemes. He might even be forced to pay up to $100 million in penalties and back taxes. And finally that Times story demonstrated that Trump’s losses in Atlantic City were devastating to his fortune. Which totally contradicts Trump’s frequent claim of being a ‘business genius’. ..He was not..!

    Therefore Turley’s claims of conservative victimhood are entirely disengenous. If mainstream media had an obligation to play up the Hunter Biden story, then rightwing media had an obligation to report the New York Times investigation into Trump’s fortune. One cannot insist that mainstream media must give equal coverage to rightwing stories while rightwing media has no similar obligation.

    1. Green Anon, specifically, the question is about social media, not news media. None of the news media are monopolies or oligopolies. The social media could be described as monopolistic, and there are no COMPETITIVE alternatives to their political bias within social media. You can claim they are not monopolistic or oligopolistic, but I believe most people would disagree.

      1. Diogenes, Social Media has no obligation to promote rightwing media stories. If a rightwing media story can’t stand on its own, then the story deserves to fizzle.

        Yet with the Hunter Biden story, Trumpers were expecting to use Social Media as a means of forcing the story into mainstream media. To that end, they were planning to use bots and whatever to make the story a fate-accompli that mainstream media would ‘have’ to cover. Silicon Valley was justified in saying, “Leave us out of this”.

        1. Silicon Valley was justified in saying, “Leave us out of this”.

          Are they a platform or a publisher? This isn’t that difficult, Peter.

        2. “To that end, they were planning to use bots and whatever to make the story a fate-accompli that mainstream media would ‘have’ to cover.”

          First, you’re speculating.
          Second, so what about bots if the story is true?
          Third, bots and whatever are used by leftwing groups and they don’t suffer comparable censorship.
          Finally, Art Deco makes an excellent point at 2:48 PM.

    2. False dichotomy of msm-stories vs rwm-stories. Both rwm and msm should be arriving to tell truth and present facts. Conservatives were upset at MSM labeling RWM-HB story as “misinformation from Russian hackers” which is rather different than simply not reporting.

      I think we can all agree that publishing blatant lies is inappropriate activity for any member of the “press”

  9. Something that I think is worth mentioning that RT didn’t, is the fact that Craig Newmark is also the found of “Craigslist”, which HAD a rather wide-open “Discussion Forum” segment of of it’s webpage, generally one for each locality that it serviced.

    For a decade+, I used to argue with leftists on a page called “Rants and Raves” over a variety of topics, and then last June, my account was “suspended”. There was an omnipresent leftist poster who I firmly believe was one of Newmark’s employees, as my posts that wrecked his narratives were constantly flagged before they even hit the board for actual “community moderation”.

    In short, Craig Newmark is an avowed leftist, and since I feel I’ve been censored by his organization, I believe he would see bolstering conservative censorship while calling it fake would work towards his common goal of killing off conservatism wherever it rears its head.

  10. In the end, I would be interested in looking at the actual data and would keep an open mind on the results.

    There is no relevant data set. To perform an analysis, you would need to know about all the Tweets/postings/account that WEREN’T censored in addition to those that were.

  11. I am trying to figure out a mathematical version of ‘Figures can lie and liars can figure.’ The answer is int he body of the university’s answer, :”Figures can lie and liars can figure,” For those who can’t figure that out ‘ they buried it in the body of the revised study.

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Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks