Fb Stays a Menace to Democracy

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, testified on Capitol Hill before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in April 2018. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

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The Trump presidency will be remembered as the time when the absurdity of reality surpassed satire. Even if Trump comes out of the White House, a cartoon has a hard time being as grotesque as what actually happens. One of The Onion’s typical attempts to parody the daily news began on Monday: “To curb the organization’s oversized influence, Facebook announced on Monday that it would take new steps to ensure the dissolution of the US government before it becomes too powerful becomes . ”

But The Onion satire turned out to be a pale copy of the breaking news of the week, with evidence emerging of Facebook promoting right-wing zealots in the United States, including some who helped with the Egg in the January 6 riot at the Capitol . Equally disturbing was the news that the Australian government stepped down from its own attempt to regulate Facebook after the social media giant tensed its muscles by excluding news from Australian sources from its feeds.

On Sunday, BuzzFeed News reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg intervened personally in 2019 to thwart an attempt to completely dismiss Alex Jones, the notorious supplier of lies about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and proponent of QAnon-style conspiracy theories .

An internal review by Facebook found that Jones and its Infowars program were inciting hatred against Muslims and transsexuals. These posts have been flagged by Facebook’s own internal integrity analysts tasked with monitoring hate speech.

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However, BuzzFeed reports: “Zuckerberg did not see the Infowars founder as a figure of hatred, according to someone familiar with the decision. He overruled his own internal experts and opened a gaping loophole: Facebook would permanently ban Jones and its companies – but would not touch upon praise and support from other Facebook users. This meant Jones’s legions of followers could continue to share his lies on the world’s largest social network. ”

Jones and Infowars were important propagators of the ideas that animated the failed January 6 uprising. The Department of Justice and the FBI are currently investigating Jones’ possible links with the Capitol rioters.

A Facebook employee told BuzzFeed that Zuckerberg’s intervention served as a shield for right-wing militias that organized in advance of the Capitol attack. “The teams should have checked the oath guards and three percent, and essentially these people were not allowed to,” the employee said.

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Zuckerberg is reportedly motivated by his desire to stay in the good hands of the political right, which has scared the multimillionaire with false complaints about bias. These complaints are a transparent effort to get the referee to work.

The right won a huge win in its campaign against cow Facebook. To reassure his right-wing critics, Zuckerberg has elevated several prominent conservatives to positions of power, most notably Joel Kaplan, vice president for global public order. Kaplan is a longtime Republican official who participated in the infamous Brooks Brothers uprising to halt the Florida vote in the 2000 election and later served as deputy chief of staff under George W. Bush.

According to BuzzFeed, a Facebook integrity researcher in December “detailed how right-wing sites, including those for Breitbart and Fox News, have become discussion centers full of death threats and hate speech – a clear violation of Facebook guidelines. They asked why the company continued to officially work with such publications. ”

Facebook’s decision to violate its own guidelines to indulge in right-wing hate speech becomes even more unsettling when you consider how resilient the tech giant is to government regulations. The Australian government discovered how unruly Facebook can be when it proposed a law requiring Facebook and other social networks to share their profits with news organizations who provide the content for their websites.

Facebook responded, the New York Times reported, by “cutting off communications across the country and disrupting and confusing millions of Australians.”

Jacob Silverman wrote in The New Republic comparing Facebook to the Mafia. Suppression of 11 million Facebook users Down Under, [which] had far-reaching consequences that went far beyond journalism (health and emergency services found their pages disabled). ”

On Monday, Facebook ended its punishment and reached a compromise with the Australian government that the social media company would voluntarily enter into a profit-sharing agreement with publishers. In fact, Facebook promises to self-regulate to prevent government interference. Silverman notes, “Facebook can now choose which publishers it supports, which is bad for large and (especially) small news organizations that may be critical of the company.”

With the deal with the Australian government, Facebook is stronger than ever and can more capriciously decide which websites to advertise. Facebook retains the power of editor, including the power to censor some stories and promote others, but with few responsibilities.

We have already seen what Facebook does with its enormous power. It promotes the ideas it believes will serve its interest, including right-wing extremist ideas that lead to violence. Australia lost their big battle with Facebook. But in the US and elsewhere, the attempt to regulate Facebook is only just beginning. For the sake of democracy, these battles must be won.

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