The more we learn about Facebook’s ‘official’ policies the uglier this gets.
A little more than a year after Facebook’s bold proclamation that they wanted to ‘replace church’, the social media giant has faced a world of hurt.
And its founder said people could find “purpose and support” online that previous generations found by going to church.
Zuckerberg has recently been pushing the idea of communities as Facebook’s new mission and last week said it would be the company’s focus from now on.
Their brand is now tainted. They’ve been busted for ignoring the Russian election interference attempts in 2016. They’ve been called out for sharing private information to third parties, even when the users thought their settings would prevent that from happening.
In the same piece that talked about replacing Church, we also read this: “In a recent interview with CNN, he said connecting people is not enough and that Facebook has a responsibility to manage its communities.”
“Manage its communities” sounds a little Orwellian, doesn’t it? Well, he wasn’t kidding.
According to the blockbuster New York Times report, the rules show the social network to be “a far more powerful arbiter of global speech than has been publicly recognized or acknowledged by the company itself.” The Times discovered a range of gaps, biases and outright errors — including instances where Facebook allowed extremism to spread in some counties while censoring mainstream speech in others.
The rulebook’s details were revealed Thursday night thanks to a Facebook employee who leaked over 1,400 pages of the speech policing rulebook to the Times because he “feared that the company was exercising too much power, with too little oversight — and making too many mistakes.”
Too much power? That lines up with the general criticism.
The Menlo Park, Calif. company then outsources the content moderation to other companies that tend to hire unskilled workers, according to the newspaper’s report. The 7,500-plus moderators “have mere seconds to recall countless rules and apply them to the hundreds of posts that dash across their screens each day. When is a reference to “jihad,” for example, forbidden? When is a “crying laughter” emoji a warning sign?”
…Moderators also revealed that they face pressure to review a thousand pieces of content per day, with only eight to 10 seconds to judge each post.
7500 moderators? Weren’t we assured that the censorship process was algorithm-based, and not subject to human error, bias, or decision-making?
Facebook’s most politically consequential and potentially divisive document could be an Excel spreadsheet that the Times reports lists every group and individual the company has barred as a “hate figure.” Moderators are told to remove any post praising, supporting or representing any of the people on that list.
Anton Shekhovtsov, an expert in far-right groups, told the publication he was “confused about the methodology.” The company bans an impressive array of American and British groups, he added, but relatively few in countries where the far right can be more violent, particularly Russia or Ukraine.
Still, there’s inconsistency in how Facebook applies the rules. In Germany, where speech in general is more scrutinized, Facebook reportedly blocks dozens of far-right groups. In nearby Austria, it only blocks one.
For a tech company to draw these lines is “extremely problematic,” Jonas Kaiser, a Harvard University expert on online extremism, told the Times. “It puts social networks in the position to make judgment calls that are traditionally the job of the courts.”
In other words, they’ve taken on a role of judge, jury and executioner in the digital world.
In the real world, we to out of our way to separate those roles — specifically because it’s part of human nature to abuse such power. That’s the very reason we treat publishers and platforms differently under the law.
It’s time that we stop pretending Facebook is just a ‘platform’, and start making them play by the rules — including legal liability — that all other publishers play by.
by Doug Giles
Doug Giles, best-selling author of Raising Righteous And Rowdy Girls and Editor-In-Chief of the mega-blog, ClashDaily.com, has just penned a book he guarantees will kick hipster males into the rarefied air of masculinity. That is, if the man-child will put down his frappuccino; shut the hell up and listen and obey everything he instructs them to do in his timely and tornadic tome. Buy Now: Pussification: The Effeminization Of The American Male
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