With little explanation, Facebook has been disabling pages related to activism. In some cases, administrators who set up the pages are no longer able to add updates. In others, the pages are being deleted entirely. Understandably, activists are frustrated when a network of 10,000 like-minded individuals is suddenly erased, leaving no way to reconnect with the group.
Realistically, that’s the downside of relying on a hundred billion dollar company. Facebook is a pro-business enterprise with countless partnerships that undoubtedly pressure the site to limit the types of socializing progressives may engage in, particularly activities that might harm advertisers’ profits.
A Facebook Page that’s out to farm “likes” posts content with false promises, asking users to share an image or link. Although the page might claim that a donation will be given to a sick child, or that the user will gain access to special content, this is just a ploy to gain Facebook shares and likes, which will continue to spread their content. These scams are becoming increasingly popular. By taking advantage of Facebook’s Like algorithm, they can lead to real profits as a marketing tool.
After years of touting its commenting system as the key to its community of readers, The Huffington Post is abandoning its own proprietary system and today is switching solely to a Facebook commenting system on its US site, including mobile and apps.
The move is a response to the ever-changing online ecosystem, Huffington Post chief technology officer Otto Toth said in a blog post announcing the change on Saturday: “It’s bringing the discussions and debates to the places where you engage with them the most and introducing so much of what makes the HuffPost community great to the broader Facebook audience.”
The people who run Amazon, Facebook, and Google are generally good people, with honorable intentions. The problem is that once they became public companies, responsible to shareholders, their freedom of action was radically curtailed.
However much “creating community” they want to do for the world has to happen under scrutiny from shareholders, who want the share price high and rising. To do the right thing morally and ethically can easily require cutting into profits.
Policing hate speech and reducing anti-community behavior on Facebook inevitably will involve shutting down accounts, preventing posts, and in general pushing people and content off the site. That will reduce page views, the engine for ad sales. That, in turn, could cut into Facebook’s astonishingly high earnings.
Last week, Alexis Madrigal dropped a bomb in The Atlantic so big, we’re looking at the social network we’ve given our lives to for a decade and wondering if we can ever trust Facebook again. Madrigal says what Facebook did to American democracy is many threads of a huge story woven together. Now, let’s unravel this quilt of horrors.
This morning, The New York Times launched a clever crowdsourcing campaign to help determine whether or not six “deeply insulting” statements should qualify as hate speech on Facebook. As of this year, Facebook employs 7,500 to parse free speech from hate speech. But does it know the difference?
In June, ProPublica posted the hate speech rules Facebook uses to train its reviewers. It later came under fire for prioritizing white men over Black children in the screening process, prompting it to change its policy to cover age as a protected category. Some question the maneuver’s sincerity.
What muddies the water the most is the platform’s policy on modifiers. For example, “women need to be hit in the head” does qualify as hate speech, because it advocates violence based on gender (a protected category). On the other hand, “female sports reporters need to be hit in the head” does not qualify. Because, as the Times observes, including occupation in the attack “negates the protection based on gender.”
And while Facebook considers “white men are assholes” hate speech, saying “poor black people should still sit at the back of the bus” is okay.
One ProPublica reader says, “The idea of censorship of social media just feels like a slippery slope. When some humans are setting a rubric for other humans, however thoughtful and logical it may seem, it makes free speech meaningless.” Another says, “They protect based on gender identity? Tell that to their ‘real name’ policy enforcers.” ProPublica wants users to report hate speech through its Facebook page.
These days, Facebook and Fake News are synonymous. I get Wikipedia’s stringent rules for what is or isn’t legit. If the almighty wiki overlords sanction a button to rid the world of disinformation, then bring it. Question is, where will it go? Facebook is riddled with tap-traps. Try tapping a pic and instead you’ve opened pandora’s box of pop-ups. Tags, filters, emojis — everything but the kitchen sink. Adding Wikipedia to the FB clutter grenade without pulling the pin will take focus. That’s a problem for Facebook because focus is the one thing Facebook doesn’t have.