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Sprinkles from the Left

The Left is critical of Facebook and its decisions regarding former President Trump and politicians as a whole.

Former President Trump’s abject failure to build a big audience for his personal website this year shone a spotlight on just how much he depended on the White House and, especially, major social media networks to amplify his voice. And on Friday, one of those networks — Facebook — announced that it will continue to keep Trump off its platform until Jan. 7, 2023, the two-year anniversary of his suspension…

…the announcement was a mixture of positive steps and not-so-positive ones. On the plus side, the network embraced more than three-quarters of the improvements that its Oversight Board called for last month when it reviewed Trump’s suspension. It also eliminated a rule that let politicians post rule-breaking content simply because they’re politicians. But it appeared to leave in place another inexplicable practice: its refusal to apply its rule against false and deceptive advertising to politicians who are trying to win elections…

Zuckerberg has famously said that his company shouldn’t be “the arbiter of truth,” but it can’t afford to be a firehose of lies, either. That’s why it has tried to crack down on COVID-19 misinformation, fake accounts and anti-vaccine propaganda, among other things. The company’s new newsworthiness policy recognizes that politicians should be treated the same as everyone else on the platform. The same should be true for all of Facebook’s policies.

Jon Healey, LA Times

[Facebook’s decision to ban Trump] still doesn’t fully deal with the Trump Problem, though. After the insurrection, Twitter simply banned him permanently. Facebook put off a final decision for another 19 months — and even then, is outsourcing some determinations of responsibility.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his top executives first tried to hand the problem to the company’s blue-ribbon Oversight Board of outside eminences, but last month the board handed it back. The board noted in its report that Facebook had refused to provide information about how its algorithms might have amplified false stolen-election claims that fueled the Capitol riot.
Clegg said a separate outside panel — this one made up of academics — is analyzing that data and will make a report. At some point. Nobody quite knows when.

That may be the bigger issue. Facebook has 2.8 billion regular users and Instagram has about 1 billion. The platforms’ algorithms can promote content, increasing the likelihood that it will go viral, or “demote” it and slow its spread. Trump-generated and Trump-inspired disinformation has often spread like wildfire on Facebook and Instagram, despite the company’s attempts at fact-checking. Did any significant organizing efforts for Jan. 6 take place on Facebook? I’d like to know the answer as soon as possible. Zuckerberg and his company seem in no great hurry.

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post ($)

Sprinkles from the Right

The Right is critical of Facebook and its decisions regarding former President Trump and politicians as a whole.

Facebook is trying, by progressive demand, to referee American politics, and the results aren’t pretty. On Friday the social-media giant issued two new decisions—first, Donald Trump will remain banned from the platform until at least Jan. 7, 2023; and second, posts by politicians will be subject to more scrutiny by the company’s censors…

Facebook also indicated that more speech by politicians may be taken down in the future. The company has previously said it would refrain from censoring politicians because their views are important for the public to see. That was a sound judgment that helped avoid tying up the social-media firm in political fights.

Yet now Facebook says that “when we assess content for newsworthiness, we will not treat content posted by politicians any differently from content posted by anyone else.” That has a faux-egalitarian ring to it, but it really empowers Facebook’s executives at the expense of voters in a democracy, as each side lobbies to have arguments by their political opponents suppressed.

The new direction also runs headlong into the policy preferences of Florida’s GOP Legislature. The state last month passed a bill banning social-media censorship of journalistic enterprises and political candidates. That’s being challenged in court, but it reflects a defensible view that elections ought not to be excessively influenced by arbitrary preferences of tech giants.

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

The alliance between political figures and these companies is particularly chilling. Big Tech has allowed for the creation of a state media without the state. Recently, Twitter admitted that it is censoring criticism of India’s government over its handling of the pandemic because such views are deemed illegal in India. Facebook has been accused of censoring the views of Sikhs raising genocide concerns. Governments can now outsource censorship duties to Big Tech, which benefits from government support ranging from immunity to taxation laws…

Many of us are not impressed by Facebook’s effort to work out its censorship standards because they are based on a premise of censorship. The internet was once the greatest creation for free speech in history. It is now being converted into a managed space for corporate-approved viewpoints.

–Jonathan Turley, Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University and a practicing criminal defense attorney (published in Fox News)