Insider

Dan Bongino runs one of the top US Facebook pages, but says its execs never speak to him and ‘do everything they can to get in my way’

Summary List PlacementConservative commentator Dan Bongino is one of the most popular figures on Facebook. But he has an antagonistic relationship with the platform, and accused its leaders applying unfair scrutiny to his work. Bongino, a radio host a Fox News contributor, spoke to Insider after being named as the...

Dan Bongino

Summary List Placement

Conservative commentator Dan Bongino is one of the most popular figures on Facebook. But he has an antagonistic relationship with the platform, and accused its leaders applying unfair scrutiny to his work.

Bongino, a radio host a Fox News contributor, spoke to Insider after being named as the successor to Rush Limbaugh’s talk-radio slot.

That position, combined with his enormous reach on Facebook, will give him one of the most powerful platforms in conservative media.

Bongino regularly attacks both Democrats and establishment Republicans. He is a promoter of Trump, and has advanced baseless conspiracy theories like the one that that Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election.

On Facebook, right-leaning pages as a whole — and particular Bongino himself — dominate the top 10 US posts day after day.

But he says that his success there is hampered by Facebook’s fact-checking operation.

Bongino and a colleague said Facebook scrutinizes their work more than others’, hurting their reach and ability to make money.

Facebook representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Insider.

The rankings below, compiled by New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose using Facebook’s CrowdTangle service, give a sense of Bongino’s reach.

His posts regularly outperform major news outlets, elected politicians, and even cute animal videos, when it comes to total interactions:

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The New York Times previously noted that his page gets more engagement in a month than the pages of the Times, The Washington Post, and CNN put together.

Facebook, in turn, has argued that such rankings are an imperfect way to assess what does well on Facebook. It said the most-viewed posts (as opposed to those above, which got the most interactions) are not as partisan.

Like other conservative figures, Bongino has railed against big tech firms even as their platforms enabled him to reach vast audiences.

He quit Twitter in the wake of the riot at the US Capitol, having been suspended for sharing a video posted by former President Donald Trump which was blamed for further inflaming events.

He has invested in Parler, an alternative platform which proudly refuses to moderate content and became a haven for the far-right.

In an interview with Insider, Bongino said his success on Facebook is in spite of the platform rather than because of it.

“You’d think Facebook would be kissing my butt, and instead they attack us relentlessly,” he said.

By this, Bongino meant Facebook’s fact-checking program, which employs external fact-checkers to assess.

Fights over fact-checks

Bongino and one of his employees argued to Insider that the fact-checks are applied unfairly, and cost them money.

Matt Palumbo, a content manager for Bongino, told Insider that a fact-check “dings the page’s monetization by double-digit percentages, and can also result in traffic to the page being temporarily throttled”

Bongino told Insider: “We’re fact checked on Facebook on my page all the time for utter absurdities,” a situation he called ” the biggest scam in the social media ecosystem right now.”

Bongino and Palumbo gave several examples of fact-checks they consider unfair. Here are two:

Example 1: Nancy Pelosi

The first is about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A post on his website describes an argument with Facebook over whether it was right for Bongino to report that she said “China would prefer Joe Biden” as president.

It was based on based Pelosi using those words in a CNN interview to characterise what intelligence officials said in a report. She also said she had no view on whether that was true.

Bongino’s site argued that its post was literally true because she said the words. The fact-checkers argued that it was not a fair representation of her position.

Example 2: Pete Buttigeig

Another example came from Palumbo, about an article called “Violent Crime in South Bend Doubled During Mayor Pete’s Tenure.”

The article presented data suggesting an uptick in crime while Pete Buttigeig — then a Democratic candidate for president — was in charge.

It included a graph of genuine crime figures, showing a spike after Buttigeig took office. Politifact — one of Facebook’s fact-checking partners — rated the story “mostly false.”

The fact-checker pointed out that South Bend changed its reporting method at the time of the spike, broadening its definition of violent crime.

Bongino’s article didn’t mention this, instead suggesting that Buttigeig’s policies were to blame.

As with the Pelosi post, the Bongino claim of increased figures was literally true, but attached to a political point that could be contested.

Palumbo argued that the framing was legitimate because it was not clear what proportion of the increase came from the reporting change, meaning that Buttigeig’s actions may have been responsible.

Facebook has also previously flagged posts from mainstream news websites like Politico, suggesting that it is not solely right-wing outlets which are policed.

Leaked documents obtained by NBC News last year showed that Facebook relaxed its rules in 2020 to allow some conservative pages to avoid a moderation program because the platform was worried about seeming biased against conservatives.

Dan Bongino

Speaking to Insider, Bongino said that he wanted praise rather than confrontation from Facebook’s leaders, who he called “very stupid people with no business sense at all.” Facebook didn’t respond to this, or other claims.

“You would think they would call and say: Dan, you’ve really done a lot for our platform. A lot of users find your stuff that you give to us for free’ — which I do. I don’t charge Facebook. I give them my content.”

Bongino said he would expect Facebook executives to say to him: “This is really a good business partnership for us. You know, how do we grow this?”

“Not only does that not happen, they do everything they can to get in my way.”

Facebook’s users ‘are conservative’

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Bongino argues that his presence as a top-10 page is not incompatible with his theory that Facebook is punishing him.

He said: “People come back: ‘Oh, well, Dan, you’re one of the number one Facebook pages in the country on CrowdTangle on any given day.'”

He said he replies: “Yeah. Okay. That’s because people share my content. It’s not Facebook helping me. It’s just people sharing my content.”

“People click the share button. There’s no conspiracy here. And it shouldn’t be surprising to people at all that Facebook, which is an older audience, which trends Republican, would have more Republicans that share conservative content.”

Older demographics are indeed increasingly joining Facebook while younger generations pivot to other platforms.

The Pew Research Center found that the share of older Americans on Facebook more than doubled between 2012 and 2019.

Dan Bongino

But the largest age group on the site is still those aged 25 to 34, according to SproutSocial. It said that age group makes up 26.3% of users.

An unnamed Facebook executive claimed last year that conservative content gets more engagement because those figures are better at engaging their audiences.

“Right-wing populism is always more engaging,” the person told Politico, saying that kind of content sparks “an incredibly strong, primitive emotion” because it deals with topics as “nation, protection, the other, anger, fear.”

Bongino, like many conservative commentators, claimed Facebook is biased against right-wing voices. That claim is also contested.

New York University researchers found in a study earlier this year that there was no anti-conservative bias on major social media platforms, and in fact said that right-wing voices are “dominant in online political debates” there.

He expects to be banned

Despite his success on Facebook, Bongino maintains that he will eventually be banned from the platform.

He told the Times in October 2020 that he was “anticipating being banned from Facebook” — and that this would be for “ideological” reasons.

Dan Bongino

That hasn’t happened.

But he told Insider that he’s still waiting for it.

“It’s just a matter of when it’ll happen. Yes, of course. I’m serious. I wish it weren’t the case, but it’ll happen.”

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