Facebook, Free Speech & Fake News

Jack Dorsey Twitter's CEO says that the powerful social medi platform he runs will stop carrying political advertising ahead of the impending  US Presidentila elcectionglobally. In contrast, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook doesn't fact-check political advertisements because it's not the place of technology companies to become arbiters of truth.

Facebook has an advanced algorithm which decides what posts people see in their newsfeeds, depending on their interests and previous behaviour. This algorithm has a profound impact on whose message gets out to the masses, which is why Facebook was often criticised by politicians and advocates on both sides of the political spectrum. 

Facebook is taking a defensive position on more occasions, especially when politicians argue that Facebook isn't doing enough to protect its users from the spread of misinformation. Earlier this month  the CEO of Facebook, spoke to an audience of students at Washington's Georgetown University, saying, 

"People should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.... I don't think most people want to live in a world where you can only post things that tech companies judge to be 100% true," 

Facebook has faced consistent been criticised for its policy on political ads, with the presidential campaigns of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren calling on the company to remove ads from US President Donald Trump's campaign that include claims with no evidence. In response, Facebook had recently said that fake news posts will begin to be labeled, simply, as “False Information,”

More recently Facebook has modified its position about  the ways it’s handling content around the US 2020 presidential election and on 21st October Facebook said it had taken down four foreign disinformation campaigns, three from Iran and one from Russia. 

“Today, we removed four separate networks of accounts, Pages and Groups for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram. 

“Three of them originated in Iran and one in Russia, and they targeted a number of different regions of the world: the US, North Africa and Latin America. 

“All of these operations created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing. We have shared information about our findings with law enforcement, policymakers and industry partners.”

Zuckerberg has defended his company's stance on political advertising and misinformation campaigns, citing free speech,  acknowledging the challenges Facebook is faced with, and addressed how the company is tackling them.

“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world. It is a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” he said.

According to an Al Jazeera Report, Zuckerberg said that if companies like Facebook don't stand up for free speech, the internet could start looking a lot more like China.

"Until recently, the internet in almost every country outside China has been defined by American platforms with strong free expression values," Zuckerberg said. "There's no guarantee these values will win out."

He did point out that by giving everyone a voice, there's bound to be people looking to abuse the privilege. The company's approach to solving this problem is, however, to focus on the individual, rather than the message.Zuckerberg also warned that if technology companies and platforms like Facebook don't fight hard to uphold free speech, the internet could one day look like it does in China. The Chinese government, he said, is building a censored version of the internet, and exporting that version through some of its most popular online services.

He called out ByteDance Inc. a unit TikTok, a rival Chinese mobile social network, as one of those services and said TikTok has censored content from the Hong Kong protests.

"Until recently, the internet in almost every country outside China has been defined by American platforms with strong free expression values," Zuckerberg said. "There's no guarantee these values will win out."

Besides the content policies, Facebook has been under fire for its news feed algorithm, which tends to highlight content that triggers an emotional response in users. That means shocking news, including false information, tends to spread quickly there. The socail media platform  has been hesitant to remove misinformation because of concerns, especially on the conservative side, about showing political bias.

Facebook:         ITProPortal:       AlJazeera:            NiemanLab:         CNBC:  

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