The CEO of "free speech" social network Gab has claimed that the reason conservative commentator Ben Shapiro frequently has some the biggest engagement on Facebook is due to "controlled opposition."
Andrew Torba, who founded the controversial platform frequently used by neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and far-right figures banned from other social media sites, made the claim while sharing a National File article on Saturday.
The article notes that Shapiro is constantly among the top performing figures when it comes to Facebook engagement ranked by total interactions in the U.S.
According to the Twitter account Facebook Top 10, which uses date form CrowdTangle, Shapiro has had at least one post in Facebook's top 10 link posts every day since April 10.
The latest rankings posted on June 11 shows that Shapiro's links were among six of the ten best performing on Facebook, with Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino, and Dan Rather making up the remaining four posts.
Torba shared the article on his personal Gab account while suggesting Shapiro—who has nearly eight million likes on his Facebook page—is only popular as a result of "controlled opposition" and that Facebook is allowing it to be popular.
Speaking to Newsweek, Torba added: "Ben Shapiro serves the interests of the Establishment elite. There's a reason his content is consistently in the top ten links on Facebook on a daily basis, often taking up six to seven spots in the top 10. It's not because his ideas are good or new or because he is speaking truth to power.
"Facebook can point to Shapiro's inflated performance on their platform and say 'see we don't censor conservatives, Ben Shapiro is in our top shared links.'
"Ben Shapiro is only a threat to the 19-year-old college women that he 'debates.' Facebook knows this which is why they boost him among other establishment-friendly 'conservatives' who pose no threat to the established order, and indeed serve the interests of the uniparty American Oligarch Regime."
Conservative and far-right figures have long held the belief that "Big Tech" platforms are purposely censoring their voices, amplified by its decision to ban former President Donald Trump from the platform for the next two years.
This is despite figures such as Shapiro, Hannity, Fox News and The Daily Wire frequently being being among the most shared profiles on Facebook, and researchers suggesting that Conservatives are more likely to receive engagement.
In November 2020, a study from the University of Virginia showed that Facebook tends to "polarize users, particularly conservative users" more than other social media platforms, and they are more likely to benefit from Facebook's algorithms.
"In fact, the researchers found that typical conservative users, in months when they visited Facebook more than usual, read news that was about 30 percent more conservative than the online news they would typically read," the university said in a release.
According to the article shared by Torba, Shapiro benefited from Facebook giving him posts "shadow-boosts"—a reported tactic in which people would see his content in their feeds despite never seeing or searching for similar types of posts.
So-called "shadow boosts" are the opposite of shadow banning in which posts are hidden from wider audiences.
Republican figures such as Trump have accused social media platforms of shadow banning conservative figures several times down the years.
Update 6/15/21, 3:13 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from Andrew Torba.