Of all the criticism he has received Facebook in the last few weeks, perhaps the most eloquent is the one that came from their own employees. “The misinformation affects us all”, they said around 250 employees in a letter to the address of the company revealed last October 28 at The New York Times. “Allow the misinformation paid for in the platform,” they said, “communicates that seems to us to be good to get a profit of campaigns of deliberate misinformation on the part of those who seek positions of power”.
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the united States is just 100 days of the Iowa caucus, the true beginning of a presidential election that may mark the country and the world for decades. In this context, attention will turn to Facebook to find out what you can expect from a tool of advertising unprecedented in history, able to reach with precision to any voter. In the memory of all is the precedent of 2016, when the campaign of Donald Trump and the apparatus of intelligence informal Russia used the enormous power of Facebook to spread disinformation and demobilization of the democratic vote in counties key. The social network was co-necessary in that operation. With an increasing nervousness about what might happen in 2020, for the moment, not clear if you intend to do something different.
The letter arrived at the end of a month of October especially difficult for Facebook. Earlier this month, the european court issued a judgment of consequences is still unknown, according to which any country of the EU can force Facebook to check out all over the world messages that are declared to be illegal. It is a coup unprecedented in the condition of a global company of Facebook and the inability up to now to control the content away from the borders. It is not clear, however, how you may be obliged to comply.
in Addition, the first signals about what you can expect from Facebook begin to be evident and candidates are already moving to exploit it. First, the campaign of Donald Trump published an announcement on the network with data grossly false about Joe Biden. Alerted to this fact, Facebook said that he was not going to withdraw the ad because it is not in non-compliance with its regulations. The campaign of senator Elizabeth Warren decided then to publish an advertisement with false information in order to demonstrate the lack of involvement of Facebook. The platform accepted without problems.
congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, during the cross-examination of Mark Zuckerberg. REUTERS
on The 23rd of October, the founder and president of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was to appear in Congress. The democratic congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decided to use their turn to ask questions to screw to Zuckerberg on this issue. “The rules of Facebook allow politicians to pay for spreading misinformation,” said the congressman, who tried to Zuckerberg to tell up to where you can take advantage of those rules. Ocasio-Cortez asked insistently if you take political ads with false information. “If anyone, including a politician, he is saying things which invite to violence or may cause imminent physical harm or suppress the vote, we remove that content,” said Zuckerberg. Lying, by itself, does not fall into that category.
“that is, that there is a limit,” said Ocasio-Cortez. That was perhaps the key phrase of the exchange. There is a limit, and Facebook doesn’t seem to have problems to detect the content that exceeds that limit and remove it, as it does with the porn. The decision not to do so with a false content paid for by political is conscious and deliberate, had to leave in evidence the congressman. “Well, I think that lying is wrong,” was all that he was able to respond Zuckerberg. The very short cross-examination of Ocasio-Cortez (five minutes) did not shed any new about the policy of Facebook, but it has been key in making patent, visible, and in a couple of sentences viral, the concern of many of the face of the campaign.
To end the month, a few days after the founder and ceo of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has made an announcement that left Facebook in evidence in a way even more evident that Ocasio-Cortez: Twitter do not accept ads from political campaigns. Twitter is much smaller than Facebook (320 million users), but their influence in world politics in the era of Donald Trump is inescapable.
Dorsey outlined his reasons in a series of tweets on October 30 between which said that “the political impact should be something earned, not bought”. He argued that to fix the problem was better to attack “the roots, without the burden and complexity that brings the money”. “For example”, he wrote, “it is not credible to say: ‘We are working hard to stop the people who want to manipulate our system to spread disinformation, peeero if someone pays us for selecting people and forcing them to see your ad… well… you can say what you want!”. Dorsey added an emoticon of a smiley face with a twinkle in his eye. It was inevitable to think in the words of Zuckerberg the previous week.
“At the time that they say that they will not accept certain things because they are unacceptable, what they have done is to reveal that decisions are not a simple messenger,” says Sam Wineburg, professor of Education and History at Stanford University, California, has specialized in recent years in the study of the credibility that the public gives the information on the Internet. The decision of Facebook to make consciously the same as in 2016 it seems like “the ultimate irresponsibility and a way to dismantle any democratic impulse that we may have in the field of social networking”.
Wineburg argues that “the lies that are verifiable are easy to verify”, that’s why Facebook is “morally guilty” of not preventing them. But in addition to “eventually, they will be guilty before the law.” “An institution can’t survive without that in the end the Government will realize that they are a harmful element to the society. It is a matter of time. What we will see in the united STATES in the Administration with a head”.
The department of Wineburg at Stanford did a study in 2016 to see if young people know how to distinguish the real information from the misinformation and false news. The results were disheartening. Most of the kids of the last courses of primary and secondary schools do not know to distinguish an advertisement from a news story and that they believed the assertions of the social networks without minimal verification questions. Wineburg just make a new studio monitoring, not yet published, and says that nothing has changed. “If Facebook allows this election to the things that we saw in 2016, will be even worse”.
David Greene, director of the civil liberties association Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is dedicated to the defense of civil rights in the Internet, warns, however, against an excessively regulatory in Facebook. “In a political campaign there is a lot of room for exaggeration, it is almost natural,” says Greene. “I think that the statements categorically false are the exception and not the rule. It is not good that Facebook put certain limits which could then be exploited by people who would denounce each ad. The rich who can afford that fight win, and the poor lose. That is what we see in systems that allow for the censorship”.
Greene explains that if Facebook were put to prohibit political campaigns there would be the risk of that affect also groups that, without being necessarily candidates, promote some policy or other. “I understand on one hand that Facebook does not want to put yourself in the position of banning content from candidates. On the other, I understand that there is something deeply disturbing in that allow it to go in your platform something that they know is a lie.” “What we ask for,” says Greene, “is that Facebook has clear rules and transparent that everyone can understand and follow.”