The Cost Of Mark Zuckerberg's Broken Censorship Promise Is Everyone Thinks They're Winning When Nobody Is

from the empty-promises dept

As you probably have heard by now, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, Mark Zuckerberg came out with a seemingly wonderful statement on the value of free and open speech, clearly in the context of his social media empire. The language was wonderfully clear on the matter, in fact.

Yet as I reflect on yesterday's attack and my own experience with extremism, this is what we all need to reject -- a group of extremists trying to silence the voices and opinions of everyone else around the world. I won't let that happen on Facebook. I'm committed to building a service where you can speak freely without fear of violence.
Almost before the boss of Facebook's fingers had lifted away from the keyboard, the social media giant spun around on its digital heel and mooned all those that had been cheering on Zuckerberg's words.
Only two weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a strongly worded #JeSuisCharlie statement on the importance of free speech, Facebook has agreed to censor images of the prophet Muhammad in Turkey — including the very type of image that precipitated the Charlie Hebdo attack. It’s an illustration, perhaps, of how extremely complicated and nuanced issues of online speech really are. It’s also conclusive proof of what many tech critics said of Zuckerberg’s free-speech declaration at the time: Sweeping promises are all well and good, but Facebook’s record doesn’t entirely back it up.
But the real issue isn't really that an international company that happens to be led by an American has divorced itself from a moral stand. That kind of thing happens all the time and can be chalked up to the simple fact that, in capitalism, money is king and values are the jester entertaining the masses. And, just to be clear, I'm not arguing that there is even anything wrong with the above. The problem is the promise and what it is designed to do.

That promise was meant to accomplish two things. The first is the obvious public relations benefit Facebook received from going all Western values in public. The audience that would read Zuckerberg's proclamation was always going to be largely in favor of the values expressed. That same audience likely largely won't ever make themselves aware of Facebook's kneeling before the censorious Turkish government. And that's not a bug, it's a feature.

What the divisions in values allow statements like Zuckerberg's and the subsequent actions Facebook took in Turkey to do is make everyone feel like they've won something, while the status quo is maintained. Westerners cheer on as the gauntlet is thrown down for free speech in the arenas which will appreciate such a stand, while a Turkish government and the religious zealots that appear to live solely to show their subjects that Western values are as fleeting as a wisp of smoke claim victory as well. Everyone is in exactly the same place as they were before, except perhaps slightly more emboldened, but feels like they're progressing their agenda.

And that's about as dangerous as it gets in the arena of an exchange of ideas and ideals. The cure for the plague of censorious government and/or organizations, be they religious or otherwise, is for the clash of culture to happen. That will never happen so long as companies like Facebook bend to the will of the enemies of speech while also successfully placating the pro-speech populous with PR statements. That promise is what lets us pat ourselves on the back, thinking we have an ally, when that ally is really a con-man playing both sides against the middle for the most cynical of reasons: money. Please don't let them get away with it, even if only in your own mind.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 4 Feb 2015 @ 9:09am

    If anything TD (and other communities both online and with offline presence) shows that there are plenty of people that don't buy that crap even if they won't agree on the course of action or which God (or lack of) is the way to go. As long as there are people like that, as long as they are spreading knowledge as they can (sharing this on Facebook sounds amusingly good) we will eventually reach a higher spot in the human evolution stairs.

    People will eventually get hardened to such hypocrisy and then they will be fed up and start acting. It's never too late so let's keep doing what we can.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 10:02am

      Re:

      That sounds good, but people have been falling for this hypocrisy for thousands of years. Each generation appears to need to learn it all over again. So while we keep educating people, they keep dying, replaced by those who have the eternal hope that things will be better this time.

      In other words, the human race is insane.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 2:43am

        Re: Re:

        "Each generation appears to need to learn it all over again"

        Every generation has to re-learn everything, because it's a new generation, you twit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      PRMan, 4 Feb 2015 @ 10:51am

      Re:

      How presumptuous of you to assume that human evolution is true...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 4 Feb 2015 @ 9:29am

    This is the same guy who banked on the fact it's "dumb fucks" would turn over mountains of information without a second thought.

    There's a reason I don't own a Facebook account.

    But more importantly: ever notice how fast websites are jumping on ensuring that little shitty "f" is plastered on their site?

    Yeah, money most assuredly makes the calls.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 4 Feb 2015 @ 9:56am

      Re:

      There's a reason I don't own a Facebook account.

      Sorry to break the news, but you don't really "own" much of anything anymore. It seems like everything has some kind of "we can turn it into a brick" functionality these days.

      Except bricks I guess. You can own a brick - as long as it's not part of your house and you have an HOA, then you don't really own the brick either.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 10:05am

        Re: Re:

        It's still possible to clearly own what you own and clearly not own what you don't -- it's just more expensive, so most people choose not to do it.

        And if you want to get pedantic, you don't own your house, as the government can come in and seize it from you whenever they want. Instead, you have a license. Stop paying property tax, and it'll get revoked.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Bamboo Harvester (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:23am

          Private Ownership

          "It's still possible to clearly own what you own and clearly not own what you don't "

          You don't own *anything* in the US. If you pay taxes on it, you're merely renting it.

          This government recognizes both both Eminent Domain (We Own EVERYTHING) and Force Majure (We've got more guns to TAKE what we own).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 4 Feb 2015 @ 9:29am

    Par for the course

    We are, after all, talking about Zuckerberg, who has been well established as being an ethically challenged creep for years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 9:35am

    Spammer Mark Zuckerberg will do anything -- as long it makes money. He's a sociopathic monster and it astonishes me that the rest of world didn't recognize this ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 9:53am

    i just read where Facebook has opted everyone of it's members/clients in so that their browsing habits can be logged, even after disabling their Facebook connection. everyone has to go through an opt out process afterwards if they dont want to be part of it.
    seems to me that like almost everything else associated with Zuckerberg, he's nothing but a liar and bull shiter!! everything he does is to make money, but he is never honest about anything. shame people dont see him and his 'social network' for what it is, a way for various security forces to be able to scan and scoop up everything from everyone!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 10:13am

    Not that I like Zuck or Facebook, but guys, Zuck didn't actually break his promise. He promised to not let extremists censor everyone. He didn't promise to prevent specific countries from censoring their own people. A legitimately recognized government != a group of religious zealots. Turkey != everyone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 4 Feb 2015 @ 10:34am

      Re:

      Forgive me, but if the government of Turkey wants to censor images within their country STRICTLY based on religious ideology, exactly how is the government of Turkey not comprised of extremists?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        PRMan, 4 Feb 2015 @ 10:53am

        Re: Re:

        Blasphemy laws only seem extreme to Americans in the 21st Century. They have a long history in the world in virtually every culture.

        If that is true, then who is the extremist? The one or the many?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Dark Helmet (profile), 4 Feb 2015 @ 11:01am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Extremism is defined by the viewpoint, not by the quantity of followers.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 12:52pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I think you have it backwards. The viewpoint is considered extreme solely based on the number of followers; how else would you say it is extreme? Besides, the masses are the ones who get to declare a viewpoint extreme.

            Your basis for extreme revolves around some notion of right and wrong and morals and such. These only exist based on the beliefs of society as a whole. There is no such thing as an absolute right or moral.

            Or is there?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Dark Helmet (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:00am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "I think you have it backwards. The viewpoint is considered extreme solely based on the number of followers; how else would you say it is extreme? Besides, the masses are the ones who get to declare a viewpoint extreme."

              This is demonstrably incorrect. What you're talking about is what is "popular" or "populist", not what is "extreme." To demonstrate:

              Let's take 100 people and put them in a room and tell them that a person on the other side of a glass window has been caught jay-walking. The group can choose from a spectrum of reactions to this, from doing absolutely nothing to the man and letting him go on one end of the spectrum and to putting the man to death by stuffing his testicles into his air passages on the other end. Now, let's say 90 people decide to kill the man by airpath testicle blockage. According to you, that reaction wouldn't be extreme. That's extremely silly.

              "Your basis for extreme revolves around some notion of right and wrong and morals and such. These only exist based on the beliefs of society as a whole. There is no such thing as an absolute right or moral."

              You're conflating 2 things: the existence of morality and the existence of ABSOLUTE morality. They're not the same thing. There is a legitimate, non-societal basis for morality: that which causes general happiness and well-being for the individual and the group is moral, that which does the opposite is immoral. It's vague to allow wiggle room for society to exist, but it's logical, scientific, and it WORKS.

              And it thinks religious extremists, no matter their number, are fucking assholes.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:15am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                If 90% of the people are for it, how can it be extreme? It is obviously a "moral" thing to do since the majority are for it and morals are enforced by the majority. An extreme position is measured by the numbers, or lack there of, that support it. There is no other way to measure it.

                Take slavery for instance. There was a time not long ago that was considered fine. But today you would consider that an extreme position to take. So morals change over time and among societies. You consider some other societies views extreme while they consider your's extreme. But in fact, there are no extremes. Just the strong oppressing the weak. Evolution in action.

                Well, the only other way is if there are absolutes, but you aren't saying there are absolutes, are you? You deny them but you know they exist.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Ninja (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:15am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Burning people at the stake was considered business as usual in the Middle Ages and yet we see now that it's an extreme measure for dealing with crimes and we won't do it. The fact that it was common back then doesn't make it less wrong. Same with slavery and so on. It doesn't matter if all Germans agreed that putting people in gas chambers in the name of racial purity was awesome or just a small fraction of them did, it's extremist the same way as the world would realize later.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:18am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                You seem to want it both ways. You say that some things were business at usual at one time and now say the world realized it was extreme. But that is one society in time judging another. How can we judge past societies unless there are morals that exist beyond time; which you don't seem to be advocating here. The answer is we can't unless we admit there are morals beyond time and society.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  Ninja (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 6:53am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  You see, I'm not judging anybody. I'm saying that these things were wrong even though they were seen as normal by society at that time. Extreme racism in the levels of going physical wasn't seen as "extremism" just a few decades back but this fact doesn't make it any less extremist.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 1:08pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I would define extremism as trying to force ones beliefs or politics onto other people. The less a person accepts differences in these, the more extremist that they are.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 10:15am

    Is this the same Zuckerberg who said nobody wants privacy anymore?

    Is it also the same Zuckerberg who keeps his profile private and throws a fit whenever someone gets in and exposes it? Yea, I thought so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Savina Georgieva, 4 Feb 2015 @ 10:45am

    I think that Zukerman should ask his pig dragon toilet seat prasila to finally releave the facebook community from her ugly presence.I kind of feel repulsed to have account there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 11:06am

    Mark Z. is a underdeveloped little twit who lucked into a good thing before he had the maturity to deal with it responsibly. He has no ethics, stands for nothing except money, and continually tries to slip things under the radar. Fuck Facebook. Its operation is a reflection of the man, and Marco Z. is a dishonest weasel. Everything about him and his precious Facebook reeks of his lack of values. Of course, he lied: that's what he does best.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CLAP, 5 Feb 2015 @ 12:14pm

    Zuckerberg says he is against censorship

    Zuckerberg blocks links to The Pirate Bay

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 5:01pm

    Censorship Or Filtering?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 5:18pm

    Censorship Or Filtering?

    Dunno what happened just then with my previous comment. It somehow got submitted unintentionally. Huh? Anyway:

    The difference between censorship and filtering is the identity of the person controlling what will not be seen.

    If the person who is seeing is also the person who controls what will be seen (heard, etc.), then it is filtering. So, for example, customer-controlled spam filtering in an email system is perfectly acceptable.

    However, censorship is when somebody else controls what will not be seen. It is the element of somebody else exercising control which is offensive. Censorship is cultural imperialism.

    What has not been made clear in the story, is whether Turkish Facebook users can themselves control whether they do or do not see the images of prophet Muhammad. If each account holder has control, then it is filtering, no harm, no foul. If somebody else controls, then it is censorship, which is naughty cultural imperialism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    BRASILEIRO, 29 Mar 2015 @ 5:59am

    MARK ZUCKERBERG

    MARK ZUCKERBERG IS A COWARD!
    IT IS FURTHER DISTURB THE ENTREPRENEURS OF ALL BRAZIL, BLOCKING OUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNTS WITHOUT ANY JURISDICTION AND HONEST ATTITUDE.

    STOP BEING COWARD MARK ZUCKERBERG!

    I CHALLENGE YOU TO BE ATTITUDES MARK ZUCKERBERG MORE HONEST DECENT MORE WITH BRAZILIAN US.

    BY CHANCE YOU ARE A ROBOT, MARK ZUCKERBERG ???
    WE ARE THE SAME MATERIAL BRAZILIAN CREATED YOU, MEAT AND BONES ...

    I CHALLENGE TO BE HONEST WITH BRAZILIAN WE HONEST!
    STOP BEING COWARD MARK ZUCKERBERG!

    HAS MANY AMERICAN, PICKS, DISHONEST THE WORLD IN ALL COUNTRIES, MAINLY IN THE USA.

    STOP BEING COWARD MARK ZUCKERBERG!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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