Mark Zuckerberg is saying he is sorry, again.
Since the United States has been slow and unwilling to respond to the recent Facebook abuses, this is taking place mostly in Europe. On Tuesday Zuckerberg appeared in front of the European Union Parlement to be BBQ roasted in a style similar to the US Senate grilling the previous month. Hopefully, the European equivalent of this ritual comes with some action, unlike the Senate version. Where typically a CEO is sat down and yelled at live on C-SPAN, followed by everyone immediately running back to abusing the system as much as humanly possible.
While I’m sure that is partially the case in European politics also remember that GDPR is in effect in Europe already. The General Data Protection Regulation gives users a real legal foothold over what, and how much data is collected on them. Providing you live in Europe, the US is still screwed… Or partially screwed as, for now at least, the platform updates listed in their April 17th blog post at first glance would seem to affect all users regardless of whether they live in Europe or not. These additions include the ability to switch facial recognition on or off, the ability to opt-out of sharing data with advertisers, and the ability to quickly revoke access to your data from third-party apps, among other changes. Now to be clear I say we partially are screwed because the new tools have already shown to be different in different regions, and Facebook’s implied promises should be trusted even less than real ones.
Meanwhile back in the United States, Facebook has hired Oscar-winning documentarian Morgan Neville to produce at least one short film about Facebook’s effort to combat ‘fake news’ on its platform (it kills me to use that phrase). The film itself can be found here, it is not wholly unpleasant until you realize that says almost nothing about the details of their supposed solution. But as always there’s truth in the lies and lies in the truth. Portions of the video are interesting such as the quadrant graph of FB’s perceived classifications of fraudulent internet data. Right, Wrong, Propaganda, and Hoaxes. I did find it very meta to be watching a propaganda video about propaganda. In particular, an FB employee is quoted in the video saying that in terms of propaganda column, “Because of our commitment to free speech, everything we do here has to be incredibly, incredibly careful.” I would love to know where exactly the threat to FB would be coming from in that situation. Are they afraid of public backlash? Or is the fear of what happens when FB fails to publish the propaganda it gets from the “legitimate” sources.
This is simply put, this is FB putting their thumb on the scale, and in all honesty I think that quote was FB trying to hint at that. A free internet means no intervention. Which unfortunately means TONS of intervention as every actor who desires to game the system can simply assume the role of a legitimate advertiser, blogger, etc. The best response is somewhere in the middle. But it requires impartial oversight and I believe Facebook Corporation is incapable of impartial oversight, just like I believe any other publicly traded company is incapable of impartial oversight. In reality, though everyone needs to understand that with FB’s oversight in place the fake news stories from illegitimate sources may diminish but the fake news stories from legitimate sources will only increase.
People need to be smart enough to understand that no news should be taken at face value. We need to gauge on our own level of trust with each platform we work with. This blog is no exception. Neither is your local news network, or CNN, or for that matter Associated Press (which is in my opinion the closest thing the US has to a Soviet-style propaganda network). You and no-one else have to decide to what level the news that you are reading is true, it helps first to understand that the level of truth is NEVER %100. There will always be spin.
So in the case of my blog, if by chance you think it is full of it, I’m sorry, I disagree, but I also fully respect your right to feel that way and your right to vote with your feet. I also support your effort to look at it objectively and decide for yourself. For that is the only real fix for fake news…