ACLU Backs Zuckerberg Censorship of Conservative Media on Facebook
A senior ACLU manager is welcoming Facebook’s decision to let corporate-favored political groups censor mainstream news reports distributed via its network.
“We do not think Facebook should set itself up as an arbiter of truth … [but] this may be the best, most carefully crafted approach for the company to take,” said a statement from Jay Stanley, a “Senior Policy Analyst” for the ACLU’s speech, privacy, and technology project. He wrote:
It is an approach based on combatting bad speech with more speech. Instead of squelching or censoring stories, Facebook includes more information with posts, telling people, in effect, that “this party here says this material shouldn’t be trusted.” That does not create the censorship concerns that more heavy-handed approaches might take. We applaud Facebook for responding to the pressure it is under on this issue with a thoughtful, largely pro-speech approach.
Facebook’s owner, Mark Zuckerberg, announced his “Faceblocking” plan Thursday, Dec. 15.
Zuckerberg’s scheme allows a picked group of outside groups to tag posts by articles ad posts by media outlets as “fake.” Once tagged as “fake,” the posts and news articles will be given a much lower priority for distribution to Facebook users who are interested in similar political news.
So, far the planned system does not allow outside groups to tag Facebook posts with other terms, such as “heretical,” “good” or “beneficial.”
The ACLU manager admits problems:
Perhaps the biggest question is what the boundaries will be for how this system is applied. As I discussed in my prior post, the question of what is fact and what is fiction is a morass that is often impossible to neutrally or objectively determine. Armies of philosophers working for over two thousand years have been unable to come up with a satisfactory answer to the question of how to distinguish the two. And there is an enormous amount of material out there fitting every gradation between the most egregious hoax and the merely mistaken and badly argued. What if a piece is largely true, but includes a single intentional, consequential lie?
Facebook’s answer is that it is, for now at least, focusing its efforts on “the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain.” From what we were told, it also sounds like whatever algorithm they use to refer stories to the 3rd party fact checkers will not only incorporate the number of fake news flags received from users, but also focus on pieces that are actually trending…
Facebook will likely find it impossible to both enable fact-checking, and to be seen as neutral by those who reject those facts and any organizations that validate them.