Don’t f—- with Facebook

This is weird. I’m going to be sympathizing with  multi-billionaire and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook has been criticized for years for not controlling “hate speech,” culminating in a recent call by a couple of snowflake city supervisors that his name be removed from what had been San Francisco General Hospital. Zuckerberg got his name on it after donating $75 million to the facility.

Proving again that no good deed should go unpunished. 

Zuckerberg hasn’t done enough, say the supervisors whose city is declining into Calcutta.

First, a word about Facebook and its responsibility.

Now, 16 years old, the global social meeting and berating website has 2 billion subscribers, reaching almost 30% of the inhabitants of Planet Earth.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects internet platforms like Facebook and Google from liability for statements and content its users generate.

This legal protection—not accorded to news organizations — created the internet as we know it. Protection from liability for any false or injurious statement their users post enabled the incredibly freewheeling, and sometimes poisonous, commentary delivered by the internet.

 I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds here, but the company has long been criticized for failing to protect the privacy of users and a lack of transparency about its rules and algorithms. The complaints — and demands for change — are escalating.

As far back as December, 2016, Facebook announced a set of news feed updates to combat the problem of fake news and hoaxes. These included more streamlining for users reporting fake news, a partnership with signatory organizations to Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles to examine items reported as fake, and warnings to users when they share news that is disputed or possibly fake.

No one wants fictitious accounts on FB, or, worse, accounts run by foreign intelligence services.

That’s easy to stop.

Less easy is to ban “hate,” because how do you define “hate”?

Is calling President Donald J. Trump a “racist” and a “Nazi” hate speech?

Claiming that Hillary Clinton murdered Vince Foster. Is that hate? Or just a lie? Should lies be scrubbed? Or tagged? 

The company has some 20,000 people on its safety and security staff who oversee a gazillion posts each day. It is not possible to monitor everything.

This month, under a July boycott by major advertisers, Zuckerberg launched a new anti-hate policy. (Informed observers believe the boycott is only for a month because Facebook is too valuable an advertising platform to permanently lose.) 

Facebook will ban ads that claim people from a specific race, ethnicity, nationality, caste, gender, sexual orientation or immigration origin are a threat to the physical safety or health of anyone else, Zuckerberg said.

OK, that’s ads, but what about comments?

Facebook can be infuriatingly mysterious.

A couple of years ago I spent 24 hours in Facebook jail because I had posted a picture of Philadelphia’s supposedly Naked Bike Ride in which naughty bits could be detected only by using a magnifying glass. There were complaints (or maybe a complaint) I was told by “Facebook,” rather than a named person, and I had violated “community standards.”

Being as the clowns on bicycles, few of whom were actually naked, had a police escort, whose “community” was being violated? Facebook’s?

Earlier this year I was kicked off for a while for a meme with a punchline of tigers fornicating. I was reinstated quickly, but the image remained blocked.

So now “hate.”

If someone wrote a paean to how much he liked Aunt Jemima’s pancakes with Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, and a side of Uncle Ben’s rice, would that be hate speech? 

If you believe in free speech, really believe, you have to accept unpleasant, vile, nasty and even hateful speech.

The theory is that bad speech gets answered by good speech. Lies are fought by truth. The answer is light, not censorship.

The alternative to allowing Facebook to police itself is for the government to do it, which invites state control, which is worse than nerd control with Zuckerberg. 

The Founding Fathers built a wall between the press and the government. I believe in the wall, and letting the market sort things out. If Facebook fails its audience, it will fail itself as a business.

[Note: Expected to testify at a Wednesday House Judiciary Committee panel are Zuckerberg, along with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and Apple’s Tim Cook.]

19 thoughts on “Don’t f—- with Facebook”

  1. You should write an article on Journalism. I always thought a good journalist had to have a couple reliable sources before the editors would allow that story out. Now it seem we are in a cut and paste environment .Where even a rumor get spread across the nation on news networks just because someone saw the story . I see those montages of the every reporter just repeating the same story without any investigation , is it just laziness ,deadlines ,lack of oversight ,or picking sides of the biased editors . Like recently , the peaceful protesters, all the BLM stories, and what is not covered . . It seems no one has any curiosity to find out what is really going on . Is there a set of Ethics that reporters should live by . Who enforces them . What were you taught in journalism school , and what is being taught now . I watched Biden say “we should teach Islam in our schools” , not a peep from the Media. If Trump would have said we need to teach about Jesus in the schools , It would have been a national story and the big separation of church and state usual argument as an example. Curious as to your thoughts after all your years in the media. Mark

    1. This is a code of ethics.
      The complaint you made about Biden/Islam and Trump/Jesus is different. News reporters are to be objective, factual,and keep opinion and politics out of it.
      Biden probably meant it would be good if Americans knew more about Islam, the fastest growing religion in America, but he put his foot in his mouth. Again.

      1. That isn’t what Biden meant. .The Muslim community is trying to get 1 million voters out to vote against Trump in November. Uncle Joe was campaigning for muslim votes.

        Let me as you a question. A couple of years ago Trump put a ban on accepting people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen -The news media clalled it a Muslim ban. If he
        really .wanted a Muslim ban why didn’t Trump ban residents of Indonesia..Indonesia has more Muslims than any country in the world.,

        I worked in the federal government. I thought we had a lot of bad workers.But I have come to the conclusion your media is much worse ..

        Go to duck duck go and type in Jericho Green youtube. Listen to a black conservative. Must warn you Jericho uses vulgar language.

          1. Based on what? What actions has he taken?

            I think you are a TRUMPphobe.

            Tell me about all the presidents who started wars in the mideast. Not Trump.

            The Bushes went after Iraq. Clinton bombed Iraq in Dec 1998.Hillary and BO overthrew Ghadaffi. They would have overthrown Syria if Russia didn’t intervene. Clinton started a war in Kosovo. I know he protected Albanian muslims from milosovic. And you call Trump an islamaphobe. Are you being serious with me.

            Were you one of those who wanted more US troops in Syria?

            A year ago I told you Trump is following 4 presidents and 28 years of reckless US intervention in the ME.

            Can you look at Biden and think he is not suffering from onset dementia?It doesn’t matter.Soros owns your party lock stock and barrel.

            What do you think of the BO afhh housing program?

            And where is the great majority of rioting and lootin taking place?

            D govs D mayors D DAs.

            But you can blame Portland on Kenney. He stole the OUTLAW from Portland.

          2. You did not get an answer for two reasons. 1- “Based on what” does not tell me what you are asking about. Had you asked, why do you think he is an Islamophobe, I would have answered his general attitude and also his rwluctance to accept Muslim refugees. 2- You ask a bunch of questions and I am not required to take the time to amswer them. If I amswered everythinf everyone asked, I would do nothing else.

    (sic) probably the reason facebook censored the “naked bike ride”, was because the photo showed old people that with their fat hanging ! OBSCENE ! Where were the gorgeous people strutting their stuff ?
    Back to reality: I mentioned censor in the last blog and you mentioned this upcoming blog. I accept the constitution, therefore, I accept the first amendment. Warts and All. What I would prefer would be manners and respect. That is censorship by yourself. You can think nasty, but you don’t have to write nasty. As for lies and other falsehoods. Why is it “acceptable” to defame someone? Half the stuff written about OUR President could be slanderous or a hate crime, if pressed.
    BTW: Mark, good read.

  3. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    I entirely agree with you on the issue of freedom of speech.

    The problem is not with freedom of speech, the problem is the massive corruption of journalism which arises in consequence of lack of liability on the part of Facebook, and the other gigantic internet firms.

    What is needed is legal regulation of the internet firms. One approach would be to simply break them up via the antitrust laws. That might help. The plausible grounds is that they so dominate the market for advertising that they drive their competitors (for instance the print press) out of business. Notice that good journalism is not simply a business, it is also a public good. Public opinion is corrupted without reliable journalism. “Bad journalism is driving out good journalism –and this is contrary to the public interest.

    There are other steps that could be taken. For example, Facebook and other similar internet based firms could be forbidden to sell the information they collect on users to advertisers. That would make a very big difference –forcing them into some alternative business model. But notice that the citizens’ privacy is also a public good. It helps insure their capability to act in confidence and confidentiality.

    Another alternative would be to simply forbid the firms’ collection of data on their users. This would also have massive effects on their business models. It would again make them less dependent on advertising. But it would also protect users’ privacy.

    These steps are pretty radical, of course. My sense of the matter is that people simply fail to think much about what is going on–though the social effects, and eventually, the political effects of the policies of the internet giants have massive consequences. I suspect that the failure to think through the consequences arises primarily because the politicians quite like the mass collection of information and likely get first, or early access to it –which is arguably a form of graft.

    The politicians have been sitting on their hands for decades; and the lack of liability of the internet firms for what is said on-line is meanwhile producing a massive shambles.

    H.G. Callaway

    1. I dislike breaking them up — penalizing them for success. If Facebook IS journalism, and I say it is not, then the usual libel laws would apply. Maybe that is the way to go. (?)

      1. Philadelphia, PA

        Dear Stu,

        I’m open to the several possibilities I mentioned. Though we don’t want to “punish for success,” we also don’t want to “reward for becoming a monopoly.” Fair competition and a “level playing ground” is a public good; and it is not a matter of the “common good” to continually support growing concentrations of wealth and power, growing inequalities –and concentrations of information. Do you suppose that the current domination of “political correctness” is an accident?

        Applying the “libel laws” to Facebook and the other internet giants is one possibility –making them responsible for what their “users” say on-line. (For sure, no one is ever going to effectively monitor every users.) But forbidding them to collect and/or sell user information would be much more direct and effective in breaking up their power over public opinion and returning the advertisers to the responsible press.

        H.G. Callaway

  4. Here are examples of ‘hate speech’ that drive me crazy: [phone rings and I answer]…
    “There’s nothing wrong with your credit card, but we are offering you a new, no-interest rate…”
    “There is a problem with your social security number and your account is being frozen…”
    “This is Bob Jones from the IRS. You are about to be arrested by the IRS because you owe $X0000.”
    “Congratulations! You’ve won a free trip to the Bahamas…”
    “Because you have paid your electric bill on time for the past six months, you are entitled to a 30% discount…”
    My point? How the hell can Facebook or the government handle billions of speech inputs if the government is incapable of controlling
    the millions of unwanted and dishonest sellers of nightmares or dreams?

    1. Philadelphia, PA

      Dear Benedict & readers,

      Notice that most telephone lines are now simply a variety of internet connection.

      It is because the giant internet firms are collecting and selling information about you to their advertisers and clients that you get these annoying calls. The buyers think they have “hot prospects,” since they know so many details. (If the service you are using is “free” that means you are not the customer but the product on sale.)

      Obviously, neither Facebook nor the government can possibly monitor or control what people do with the information about you which the internet giants have sold –often to people who want to sell you something or perhaps cheat you. Nor can anyone effectively monitor for “hate speech” or disinformation and falsehoods.

      But, if, for instance, the internet firms are forbidden from collecting information on users in the first place, or forbidden to sell it on, then the problem will gradually disappear as the existing, already distributed information becomes obsolete (say, after you change your phone number, say).

      There is no way that all internet postings can be monitored by anyone effectively. But we can remove the incentives for the internet firms publishing all this stuff (for which they are not held liable), and help turn the advertisers back to the support of responsible journalism.

      As things stand, the internet giants are given every incentive to provide every idiot a megaphone–and slowly shut down the responsible media by financial starvation. Its a race to the bottom.

      H.G. Callaway

  5. I agree with Callaway that the greater issue is the starving out of journalism as a business through invasive marketing by FB. But on the strict issue of censorship, I hate the idea that some 22-year old is pulling levers behind the scenes to determine what is hateful and malicious disinformation vs angry discourse, which are two very different things. I am a centrist Democrat and the extreme factions of both parties are disturbing. Sometimes I wonder if we are in the middle of nuclear winter because the snowflakes are falling.

  6. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu & Standring,

    Thanks for your comments!

    Notice that the internet-based media are sponsoring the extremes by favoring whatever attracts the most attention–and the most “clicks.” We used to call this “yellow journalism,”
    that’s mass journalism that is “based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration.”

    H.G. Callaway

    Does anyone remember “the golden age of Hollywood” ? How about when the White House press corp would cover up for President Kennedy. President Johnson was no slouch (sic ) either, come to think of it. etcetera ……………..
    My point: From the beginning of recorded time, the news has always been slanted. Now, as we all know, this is a full assault on OUR President and the Republican Party. Since before Mr Trump entered the White House has there been a conspiracy, and it will last as long as he is in office.
    Many of you heard or watched our Attorney General get pummeled by the dimocrats. Somehow, those same dimocrats relish in this unprofessionalism and as Jerry Nader said, what antifa ?!?
    The only wat the swamp will get cleaned up is to drain it ! When that is accomplished, then these United States of America can be returned to the people.

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