Facebook has caused irrevocable damage to our political and social discourse. That much is true. The mass spread of misinformation perpetuated by the site is a war on democracy unlike anything we were ever prepared for. Mark Zuckerberg at least seems aware of that, but like most billionaires running social media platforms, his responses have been somewhere between hopelessly ineffectual and downright ignorant.
Facebook recently invited some journalists, including Oliver Darcy from CNN, to a presentation highlighting the efforts the site was making towards fighting misinformation. When asked why, in this battle against misinformation online, they had allowed InfoWars to maintain a page with over 1m followers, Facebook’s response was, to put it mildly, shit.
John Hegeman, the head of Facebook’s News Feed, and Sara Su, a Facebook product specialist for News Feed, were on call to answer questions like Darcy’s. Hegeman said, ‘I guess just for being false that doesn’t violate the community standards’, and that InfoWars had ‘not violated something that would result in them being taken down.’ Remember, this is the site run by the rude who claimed the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax staged by child actors. He later claimed the Parkland shooting survivors were ‘crisis actors’. This is barely scratching the surface of the lies Alex Jones has perpetuated to an audience that includes figures in the White House. Hegeman claimed, ‘I think part of the fundamental thing here is that we created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice. And different publishers have very different points of view.’
This has nothing to do with opinions. Two people disagreeing on tax brackets is opinion. A man insisting that grieving parents were actors and that their children are really alive isn’t opinion. You can’t spin Alex Jones as some provocateur of daring opinions when he’s influencing policy, harassing people and straight up lying about the lives of children to the point where he’s now being sued by the parents of the Sandy Hook victims.
‘There’s a ton of stuff — conspiracy theories, misleading claims, cherry picking — that we know can be really problematic and it bugs me too,’ said Sara Su. ‘But we need to figure out a way to really define that in a clear way, and then figure out what our policy and our product positions are about that.’
I can help you there. The guy pushing 9/11 conspiracy theories? Clearly definable as a conspiracy theory. Claiming George Soros perpetuated election fraud? Conspiracy theory. CALLING DEAD CHILDREN CRISIS ACTORS? CON-FUCKING-SPIRACY!
(Header photograph courtesy of Getty Images)