Meta Messes Up Again: Admits That It Suspended RT & Sputnik Due To Gov’t Pressure
from the really-not-the-best-idea dept
There may be many good reasons to ban Russian state-sponsored media propaganda from a site or a pay TV service. But there is definitely one very bad reason to: because random governments ask you to. And, yet, that’s exactly what Meta/Facebook has done. Former UK politician Nick Clegg, who was recently promoted into the top circle of Meta execs and given full control over policy decisions, posted on Twitter (yes, the Facebook exec was posting on Twitter) that the company had decided to restrict access to Russian state-sponsored propaganda outfits RT and Sputnik because the company had “received requests from a number of Governments and the EU.”
This seems incredibly short-sighted. As Emerson Brooking, at the Digital Forensic Research Lab noted, if there’s a reasonable content moderation policy violation that justifies banning those organizations, do that. But saying you’re doing it because a government tells you to is bound to backfire badly.
Because the issue is that by saying you’re doing it because various governments, including the EU, asked you to do this, you’re basically setting a precedent saying that you’ll remove news organizations based on government pressure. Just think about how that will be abused. Even if Meta believes it can stand up to pressure from, say, more authoritarian governments seeking to shut down criticism, Meta has just handed them a wide-open shot to claim that the company is willing to be bullied by governments into censoring speech.
The framing and the reasoning only lends much more credence to the idea that governments can and will instruct Meta what content to allow and what to takedown, rather than its own internal policies. And that’s dangerous.
What’s incredible is that this many years into the content moderation debates, apparently Nick Clegg didn’t understand or predict this. I’m sure that there are others at Meta who recognize how problematic this looks, but the fact that Clegg failed to seems like a massive failure on one of the most central parts of doing his job.