It seems like it is becoming clearer that Facebook will no longer return to its past habits. Some of the most dramatic changes that the social media giant did after the election include algorithm tweaks and a strict crackdown on political misinformation. These changes were supposed to be temporary. They broke glass measures that were implemented to prevent civil unrest. During that time, then-President Donal Trump was spreading false claims about the US election being rigged.
However, Facebook was forced to reckon due to some reasons. That includes the rising COVID-19 vaccine information, the insurrection last January 6, and the continuous spread of malicious conspiracies. Some of the other reasons were the growing regulatory security worldwide and the US has a new president.
According to Cliff Lampe, Facebook does not want to be the arbiters of free speech. However, they do not have a choice but to be one. Notably, Lampe is a professor who studies social media platforms, misinformation, and moderation. Right now, he is working at the University of Michigan.
Zuckerberg is Struggling With His Creation
For Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the year that passed has shown several events that have affected the assertion that he long held that the platform is a worldwide force for good. In fact, the CEO seems to be increasingly struggling with the dark side of the platform he created. This has shown in his Facebook posts, public comments, and discussions with employees.
For instance, former US President Donald Trump enjoyed special treatment from Facebook back then. He continued spreading misinformation and promulgating hate without getting any punishment for his violations. Some say his supporters bought him Facebook followers to help the political cause. But Facebook finally got him banned, saying that he was inciting violence.
In a statement dated January 7, Zuckerberg said that in the past years, Facebook has allowed Trump to use the platform consistent with its policies. There were also times when his posts were removed or labeled due to violations.
Yes, Trump Got Absolutely Zucc’d
Zuckerberg added that the company did not take down Trump’s account because they believe that the public has their right to access political speech in the broadest way possible, even if those were controversial speeches.
A day before Trump’s account suspension, violent insurrectionists who support Trump marched on a deadly riot to the US Capitol. Facebook and other tech companies banned the former US president. However, many people said that the move was too little and too late.
It is not clear yet if the suspension of Trump’s Facebook account will be permanent. On the other hand, Twitter said that it has permanently taken down his account. Moreover, the social media giant has decided over Facebook’s sort of Supreme Court of Enforcement — its quasi-independent Oversight Board. It is expected that the board will decide its ruling in April. In addition, Zuckerberg and the CEOs of Google and Twitter testified before Congress. The hearing was about misinformation and extremism on their platforms.
Facebook and Other Tech Companies are Starting to Implement Firmer Actions
A social media expert and Syracuse University communications professor Jennifer Grygiel have her own thoughts about the moves that Facebook and other tech companies are doing. According to her, social media platforms are aking the path towards firmer action. However, banning Trump alone from their social networks did not undo the years that they did nothing.
Moreover, Lampe noted that he does not doubt that Facebook will return to the hands-off approach before 2020. Yet, the public pressure of cracking down on extremism will possibly win over. The reason is that online extremism in the US and worldwide, when fueled by social media, is tied more tightly to real-world violence.
In addition, the social media giant is experiencing a growing internal push from its employees, who are becoming more and more vocal. Some of them have even quit publicly and staged protests and walkouts in the past year.
Facebook Says it has Goals of Stopping Spanish-Language Misinformation
On the other hand, advertisers boycotted Facebook’s business last summer. Apart from that, activists are getting increasing support from the state’s lawmakers, both on the federal and global level. For instance, Jessica Gonzales, the racial justice group Free Press’s attorney, joined Latino activists and Democratic Rep. Tony Cardenas recently. Together, they called out Facebook and asked it to crack down on misinformation and hate speech that targets Latinos in the US.
Gonzales, along with other civil rights activists, had a meeting with Zuckerberg during the advertising boycott last summer. She said that she reminded the Facebook CEO about the 2019 massacre that happened in El Paso. During that incident, a gunman targeted Mexicans and killed 23 individuals.
Moreover, Gonzales added that Facebook has a choice. The company can either be on history’s right side or “a vector for hate and lies that harm people of color, Latinos, immigrants, and other groups.”
Gonzales said that so far, the company has done a lot of talking. On the other hand, Facebook said that it has met with the organizations. It noted that they share the same goals of stopping Spanish-language misinformation across its apps.
Banning Trump is a Good Thing, Here’s Why
Facebook has also emphasized that it is taking aggressive steps to combat misinformation not only in Spanish but also in dozens of other languages. These steps include the removal of millions of misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines.
True enough, Facebook’s moves have often been halting. Yet, the social media giant is working to address some of the criticisms it faced in recent years. Apart from the election misinformation, the company has put restrictions on propaganda that oppose the COVID-19 vaccine. It also banned extremists like QAnon and limited the recommendation of problematic groups to users. Finally, Facebook has also begun promoting authoritative information from trusted news organizations and health agencies.