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On Monday, at a conference in Los Angeles, California, a Facebook executive defended the social network’s decision to include Breitbart as a partner in its new News feature.
Facebook’s Carolyn Evenson defended the choice of the right-wing site as one of a matter of balance, noting Facebook isn’t paying Breitbart for its participation.
“We also have content in from the far left, to try to balance the far left and the far right,” Everson said, per Gizmodo. “Again, we did not feel that we should be in a position to make a judgment call to remove the far right and leave the far left in.”
Breitbart has frequently been criticized for mainstreaming white nationalist content, and Facebook’s defense of it—which has already been regularly criticized—couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Tuesday morning, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), as part of its series of Stephen Miller leaks, revealed how Miller helped anonymously plant stories on the site, which centered on his hardline, racist views on immigration.
Stephen Miller viewed the highly trafficked Breitbart as a way to promote his nativist, anti-immigration policies and to attack political enemies before millions of readers. And, while politicians and their staff commonly seek to influence news coverage, the dynamic on display in Miller’s emails to Breitbart suggests the conservative outlet was “not playing by the same rules that legitimate news organizations play by,” said Kyle Pope, editor-in-chief of the Columbia Journalism Review.
Miller sent Breitbart emails attacking Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) and other political opponents.
In one exchange, Miller even suggested how Breitbart should byline the piece, saying it shouldn’t come from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Miller’s former boss. From Hatewatch:
[Political Editor Matthew] Boyle, Oct. 3, 2015, 8:40 p.m. ET: “Also how should we run this? Under Senator Sessions’ byline? Or under ‘Breitbart News’ byline?”
Miller, Oct. 3, 2015, 8:42 p.m. ET: “I think Breitbart News. Then it can be introduced as something shared exclusively with Breitbart by the Senate’s Subcomittee [sic] on Immigration and the National Interest, with the graphic and explanatory text underneath.”
Given that it appears Breitbart ceded at least one facet of editorial control to that of the white nationalist staffer of a politician, people thought Facebook might want to rethink including Breitbart.
Reminder as we digest Stephen Miller's white nationalist emails to Breitbart that Facebook JUST deemed Breitbart a credible news outlet. https://t.co/XOT8l4Cjbr— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) November 13, 2019
This is not now news organizations handle bylines on press releases from politicians. But it apparently is at Breitbart.— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) November 19, 2019
A reminder, too, that Breitbart is a "trusted news partner" at Facebook.https://t.co/CLYy85WlE4 pic.twitter.com/rBnchz0YQ9
NEW: Stephen Miller coordinated news drops with Breitbart, not only pushing subjects like, ““illegal immigrant child sex offenders,” but also smears of his political opponents like @marcorubio.— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) November 19, 2019
This is what @facebook now deems to be a “trusted” news source. https://t.co/OgG8hPNBeT
So, Breitbart took editorial direction from a white nationalist who works for the Trump admin. and who used Breitbart to "shape the direction of the [GOP] primaries."— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) November 19, 2019
This, according to Facebook, qualifies as a "trusted news source."https://t.co/VFbVkNR8E9
Facebook did not respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment by press time.
David Covucci is the Layer 8 editor at the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the web. His work has appeared in Vice, the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Gothamist, and other publications. He is particularly interested in hearing any tips you have. Reach out at [email protected]