Facebook Should Ban More World Leaders By Courtney C. Radsch
In many countries, Facebook is one of the few alternatives to government-aligned media that dominates national media ecosystems. This is why the authorities have devoted so many resources to manipulating it, and why the company must take responsibility for stopping them.
WASHINGTON, DC – I have been a professional advocate for free speech for over a decade. This is why I support the recent decision of the Facebook Oversight Board to maintain the suspension of former President Donald Trump from the platform and Facebook. new protocol under which public figures can be banned for up to two years in times of civil unrest. In fact, the platform should go further.
Trump used his social media bully chair to attack and harass press organizations, political opponents, and old political allies. He used it for undermine confidence in the 2020 presidential election, with a important part Americans continuing to doubt the outcome, despite the absence of any evidence of widespread irregularities or fraud. And he used it to perpetuate misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In other words, with the help of social media platforms, Trump undermined the norms and institutions that underpin the workings of representative government, while increasing the death toll from the coronavirus in the United States. And he has engaged in precisely the kinds of harassment and hate speech that social media platforms ban.
Yet for four long years, Trump was given a pass for this behavior, because platforms viewed his statements, even erroneous or dangerous, to be in the public interest. Facebook introduced this so-called journalistic value exemption shortly before the 2016 presidential election.
But there is a circular logic at work here: World leaders are exempt from following community standards because their statements are “newsworthy,” but that’s the point. incendiary nature of publications that violate the standards that lead them to be in the news. Either way, world leaders – especially the US president – can get media coverage whenever they want, simply by holding a press conference or issuing a press release.
The suspension of Trump’s social media accounts after instigating the Jan.6 insurgency on Capitol Hill was clearly a step in the right direction. Twitter has since made its ban permanent. But Facebook has left the door open for Trump to return to its platform.
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Facebook’s supervisory board confirmed the initial suspension, but challenged its indefinite nature, arguing that the company should not develop rules on the fly and must develop “clear, necessary and proportionate policies that promote public safety and respect free speech.” Above all, Facebook’s response must be “in accordance with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.”
This is where the Supervisory Board got it wrong. Yes, consistency should be a goal. But world leaders are not just any users; they should be held to a higher standard. After all, they can incite violence much easier than the average Joe or Jane. Plus, much of what happens on social media challenges existing standards. In exceptional circumstances, exceptional decisions must be taken.
Facebook’s new policy recognizes this at least in part. Its policy states, “Our standard restrictions may not be proportionate to the violation, or sufficient to reduce the risk of further harm, in the case of public figures posting content during ongoing violence or civil unrest.”
But this logic must be applied more broadly. Trump is not the only world leader to have used social media platforms to incite and manipulate public opinion using tools such as computer propaganda and astroturf. And, while Facebook has taken action against such abuses in countries like the United States, South Korea and Poland, it has so far done nothing in countries like Iraq, Honduras and the United States. ‘Azerbaijan.
This deviation is not accidental. Data scientist Sophie Zhang recently revealed that during her two and a half years on Facebook, she discovered “blatant attempts” to abuse the platform by dozens of governments seeking to “mislead their own citizens”. Yet Facebook has repeatedly refused to act. According to Zhang, “we just didn’t care enough about stopping them.”
Beyond apathy, Facebook may have sought to protect its own business interests, which is probably why corporate executives would have been protected members of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party for violating the platform’s hate speech policies. Even regimes that block their own populations from accessing Facebook – including in China, Iran and Uganda – are allowed to use the platform for their own purposes.
Facebook’s reluctance to act against such governments has had dire consequences. A declaration by Alex Warofka, head of product policy at Facebook, notes that the company “has improved the proactive detection of hate speech” in Myanmar and has started to take “more aggressive action” against accounts created to “mislead others into mistake about who they are or what they are doing. “At this point, however, Facebook had ease Mass atrocities against the country’s predominantly Muslim Rohingya minority group. Likewise, while Facebook deleted burmese army Official page in February for “inciting violence” he did so only after the army overthrew the country’s democratically elected government.
Like it or not, Facebook wields enormous power. In many countries, it is one of the few alternatives to government-aligned media that dominates national media ecosystems. For users, it is often synonymous with Internet. This is why the authorities have devoted so many resources to handle it, and why Facebook has to take responsibility for stopping them.
Of course, regulators also have a role to play. But, so far, their approach has been deeply flawed. Some – notably in Florida, Texas and Poland – have pushed in the opposite direction, seeking to ban social media platforms from removing content or accounts that are not illegal. Regulators in the United States and the European Union question whether certain elements of the Internet should be treated primarily as utilities or “common carriers”. But, overall, regulators need to focus less on content and more on platform design, ad technology and monopoly power.