Facebook’s New “Free Speech” Judges
Censorship is rife on Facebook!
We all know that Facebook faces massive problems about what is published on their site. There are many who would abuse it if they could. and many do. So Facebook has a responsibility to make sure that 'evil' and 'criminal' things are not promoted on the Facebook website.
That bit is easy. The hard bit is deciding what constitutes 'evil' and 'criminal'. Should 'hate speech' be banned? If so, what actually is 'hate speech'? Some have said that saying that 'marriage is between a man and a woman, voluntarily entered into, for life' is 'hate speech'.
So the problem for Facebook is not easy. This is in fact, censorship. So what should Facebook censor? Anything that the censor doesn't agree with? And on what basis should something be censored? These are big questions with no easy answers. What is described in this article is an attempt by Facebook to deal with this. I wish it well, but it seems to me to be pushing the matter back one level. Two things will decide if it works:
- Who is on the board.
- The criteria that are put in place for them to use to decide what should be censored.
It will be interesting to see how this works out. But good on them for having a go. But also, we should be wary about where this can go.
This article was originally published in Caldron Pool. You can see the original here.
Here Comes the “Hate Speech” Police? Facebook’s New “Free Speech” Judges
Facebook isn’t new to panel’s overseeing data collection and usage, customer conflict resolution, and moderation of user content. The company is monolithic. They have 70 offices worldwide, 15 data centres, 48,268 full-time employees and according to the digital marketing firm, Zephoria, ‘1.73 billion people’ using the site daily.
Oversight committees are a staple for any socially responsible corporate entity. They’re also essential for good government because they’re a stabilizing force providing insight through transparency and accountability. For an operation as big as Facebook, whose sole product is providing a stable communications service, a polished exterior, and even cleaner interior, keeps their product viable, and attractive.
Zuckerberg has shown that he isn’t deaf to concerns about freedom of speech being a civil liberty under threat. These threats to freedom of speech are evident in the conflating of prescribing with describing, and the undermining of the healthy relationship between positive and negative speech.
None of these are tools of “hate speech”, but each, in some way, are paralyzed by the application of “hate speech” laws and the soul-sucking abyss created by them. Without fair criticism, heartfelt reviews, satire, constructive feedback, Facebook as a social networking and communications platform would be useless.
Twice in the past year, I’ve written about how Mark’s quest to see Facebook preserve freedom of speech has given us reason to hope that the Facebook CEO isn’t indifferent to the fact that in an information age, of all civil liberties, free speech is among the most important to preserve.
His green light for an oversight committee on free speech indicates yet again that he understands this: if free speech dies, Facebook dies with it.
The purpose of the new committee, as outlined by four of its co-chairs in an NYT Op-ed, is to ‘review Facebook’s decisions about what content to take down or leave up.’
The op-ed stated that the function of the ‘oversight board will be to focus on the most challenging content issues for Facebook, including in areas such as hate speech, harassment, and protecting people’s safety and privacy. It will make final and binding decisions on whether specific content should be allowed or removed from Facebook and Instagram.’
They’re ‘funded by a $130 million trust fund that is completely independent of Facebook and cannot be revoked. Board members will serve fixed terms of three years, up to a maximum of three terms; they contract directly with the oversight board’; and Facebook cannot remove people from it.
The people, who accepted the invitation to be board members, ‘come from different professional, cultural and religious backgrounds and have various political viewpoints; are all independent of Facebook. And we are all committed to freedom of expression within the framework of international norms of human rights.’
In addition, the oversight committee, “will make decisions based on those principles and on the effects on Facebook users and society, without regard to the economic, political or reputational interests of the company…Some of our decisions may prove controversial and all will spur further debate.”
Although we’ve been reassured by the co-chairs that this will be a ‘transparent process’, allowing appeals to Facebook bans, while also allowing people to petition to have content banned.
Facebook’s new tribunal quorum appears to potentially be more judge and jury, than impartial arbitrator. Its thumbs up or thumbs down judgment on whether the content meets the approved EULA guidelines will be final. Such as marking the difference between satire, and “hate speech”, policing graphic content, as well as manipulated content (political cartoons, memes etc).
Despite co-chair, Michael McConnell’s (one of the only conservatives on the board) assertion that “we are not the internet police”, there’s no verb other than policing to describe the tribunal’s function. It’s an international judicial quorum, independent of Facebook, backed with independent funds, making judgments on Facebook’s content providers, without Facebook having any control over their rulings.
Time will tell if this is true or not, but it’s as if Facebook has handed sovereignty of their business over to a well-funded cabal. As NYT contributor, Kara Swisher pointed out, the panel ‘has all the hallmarks of the United Nations, except potentially much less effective.’
Swisher is doubtful that the new pseudo-inquisitors will be able to punish the uncooperative, presumably Hilary Clinton’s “deplorables” and their non-conformity. Inadvertently complimenting Trump, she equates the whole concept with trying to ‘hold back the sea with your hand.’
Swisher opined that the idea didn’t go far enough. For her, Facebook needs a police force, ‘we now have a kind of court, but without the real-time protection of cops where and when most of the damage is done.’
Albeit for different reasons, there’s concern about this on both sides.
The Free Speech Alliance asked whether or not this arbitration board will be able to act impartially, or will it seek to manipulate public opinion in favour of hidden, wealthy stakeholders such as George Soros?
They’re open to seeing what Zuckerberg and his team will achieve through this, especially in light of his pledges to preserve freedom of speech, but in the shadow of Swisher’s lament, they have every right to be concerned.
In a written response to the news the Free Speech Alliance said:
It’s not just what the members oppose that is the problem. It’s what, and who, they support. At least three members have ties to leftist billionaire George Soros. One works directly for his Open Society organizations. Another was the founding dean at Central European University, which Soros founded and funded with nearly $1 billion. Even Oversight Board Executive Director Thomas Hughes comes from Article 19, which has received more than $2 million from Soros.
The international left is not open to free speech; it is intolerant of it. It has proclaimed that “climate change” is “settled science,” therefore any challenge based on science is untrue. The gay lifestyle is a moral right. Any challenge to it is an assault on the “dignity of man,” and therefore constitutes hate speech. Abortion “rights” are sacred; therefore the rights of the unborn are non-existent, and therefore their advocates are disingenuous. On and on it goes.
What we do know is that Zuckerberg won’t do anything to jeopardize the 1.73 billion+ utilizing his service daily. The new tribunal quorum seems like a pro-free speech endeavour. Navigating the demands of loud Leftists, and holding them back from harming the groups they seek to persecute must be a challenging task. As is making sure other ideological radicals tow the same line.
Operating a company that is bonded to an environment sold out to the Leftist ideological paradigm requires vigilance. This could be another indication that Zuckerberg knows all too well, that to kill free speech, under the auspices of authoritarian Leftist definitions of “hate speech”, is to ultimately kill Facebook.
Backing the creation of an oversight committee for free speech isn’t something out of the ordinary. Nor is it a surprise. This new oversight committee might just be what Facebook needs. In protecting freedom of speech, Zuckerberg is ensuring that Facebook remains viable. By securing freedom of speech, instead of enslaving it, Facebook secures its own future.
This article was originally published in Caldron Pool. You can see the original here.