Let’s get something straight at the start. Expressing yourself on social media isn’t about free speech. When a platform deletes your comment, you have every right to be upset (that’s freedom), but they did not censor you or deny your First Amendment rights.
Facebook is not a government platform. You don’t have a right to Facebook any more than you have a right to free time on the stage of the Republican National Convention to espouse your views. It’s not your stage. Nobody is required to provide you a stage or a platform.
But again, you have every right to get upset when they delete your comment. Out of fairness, when Facebook deletes your comment, they owe you an explanation that’s consistent with their policies and practices. They don’t do that. So, go ahead and get upset.
When one of your friends lands in “Facebook jail,” you hear about it. They let everyone know. I don’t really know how it works because it’s never happened to me. But from the way I’ve seen people operate, it seems they can’t post for a few days but they can still scroll through Facebook. I’ve had people comment on cartoons of mine that they can’t comment because they’re in Facebook jail. So, yeah…I’m having trouble understanding it.
But Facebook has these community guidelines. They have people on staff who analyze posts to make sure they’re accurate and not conspiracy theories. Of course, Republicans scream about their right to free speech when their conspiracy theory is deleted.
Another thing Facebook does is remove bullying, which is nice if it only applied to bullying. I’ve heard of them deleting posts like, “Donald Trump is a Russian asset.” That’s more along the lines of an opinion than bullying. So again, I don’t understand what Facebook is doing.
Russia manipulated Facebook in a big way during the 2016 presidential campaign. They used the platform to build troll farms to spread chaos in this nation. While they created posts with lies and conspiracy theories to divide this nation, they mostly worked to benefit Donald Trump. Do you know who has never complained about that? Donald Trump.
A platform like Facebook sets its rules and you have to live by them if you want to play. But Facebook isn’t consistent with their rules and they’re downright hypocrites. Facebook has decided it will police your post for facts, but if you pay for it as a political ad, then you’re free to lie as much as you want. Facebook has decided not to fact-check political ads.
Fact-checking political ads completely would be impossible for Facebook. They have over 2.8 billion users operating in over 100 languages. There’s more going on out there than our presidential election. But instead of being pompous about “free speech,” Facebook should just admit it’s given up and are now encouraging lies and conspiracy theories in political ads.
This week, Twitter announced they won’t accept any political advertisements. I think that’s great (if they actually do it). Republicans, as usual, started screaming and complaining that Twitter was infringing upon conservative speech. Never mind the fact Twitter is banning ALL political ads, not just those supporting Donald Trump.
Facebook’s head honcho Mark Zuckerberg also complained about it and said, “In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news.” Once again, Facebook fails the consistency test as they censor posts to comply with “democracies” like Turkey, India, Pakistan, and Israel while deleting accounts and posts in nations with more speech freedom under mysterious circumstances.
Donald Trump spent over $70 million on Facebook ads in 2016. Other big consumers of Facebook ads are right-wing parties in Britain, India, Brazil, and the Philippines. And according to the Mueller Report, Russia spends $1.25 million on social media political ads a month.
There is social responsibility. News networks will fact-check ads (though lies and dubious claims still get through). Facebook is refusing to enact any responsibility and that’s not sitting well with many within the company. Over 250 of its employees signed an open letter decrying the decision to allow lying ads. The employees wrote, “Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing.”
They argue that lying ads “doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.” Basically, lying ads work on gullible people, which can be any one of us who accepts what we want to believe, but they mostly work on the people who are the least informed. Or to be more blunt, stupid Trump voters. These are the people who believe Donald Trump is trustworthy.
You don’t see liberals trying to shoot up pizza parlors because they thought a candidate was operating a child sex ring out of the basement, do you?
It’s not about free speech on Facebook. It’s about paid speech, and Zuckerberg is literally arguing it’s about “free” speech when he’s taking money for it. He’s more than happy to allow Facebook to be weaponized by the worst people if he makes a profit from it. What this does is put more responsibility on us, the customers of Facebook, to be wary and do our own fact-checking. Most of us won’t don’t that.
Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing and most Facebook users don’t know that. And neither does Mark Zuckerberg.
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