Facebook Follows Twitter In Recognizing A 'More Speech' Approach Is Best For Newsworthy Liars

from the it's-one-way-to-deal-with-it dept

As you may recall, a few weeks back, Twitter made a decision to add a fact check to some tweets by President Trump, and a few days later, to put a label on some of his tweets, saying that they violated Twitter's policies, and would normally be deleted, but Twitter decided that given the newsworthiness of the speaker, they would be left up (though without the ability to comment or retweet them). The president reacted about as well as expected, meaning he whined vociferously, and eventually issued a silly executive order.

Of course, the other end of this story was that Trump posted some of the same content to Facebook, and Facebook chose to do nothing. Indeed, Mark Zuckerberg pulled out this ridiculous self-serving, sanctimonious nonsense about how Facebook would allow that content because he didn't want to be "the arbiter of truth." Except, of course, Facebook does fact checks and content moderation all the time. This seemed to be a lot more about currying favor with the president, than any principled stand.

It created a big fuss within (and outside) the company, and as with any situation in which a social media website says it's taking a hands-off approach, it eventually proves to be totally unworkable. It seems to have taken all of a month for Facebook to recognize this as well.

On Friday, Mark Zuckerberg announced a bunch of changes to Facebook's policies that appear to be pretty damn similar to what Twitter did a month earlier, which Zuckerberg originally pretended was a bad idea. Amidst a larger rollout of changes to fight voter suppression and misinformation, there was this:

A handful of times a year, we leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies if the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm. Often, seeing speech from politicians is in the public interest, and in the same way that news outlets will report what a politician says, we think people should generally be able to see it for themselves on our platforms.

We will soon start labeling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case. We'll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what's acceptable in our society -- but we'll add a prompt to tell people that the content they're sharing may violate our policies.

To clarify one point: there is no newsworthiness exemption to content that incites violence or suppresses voting. Even if a politician or government official says it, if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take that content down. Similarly, there are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies I'm announcing here today.

Frankly, I think this is the best of a bunch of bad solutions. There really isn't a great answer here, even though people always assume there's "the right way" to do this. Among your options:

  • Do nothing: What Zuckerberg initially claimed Facebook would do. But this then allows people -- including politicians -- to spread ridiculous lies, sometimes hateful, or violence inducing, without any way to stop it. It pisses off users of your platform, as well as advertisers.
  • Take the content down: This pisses off the lying politicians, who are in a position to make your life even more miserable. See the response in Congress to Twitter doing just a little bit of moderation, in which victim-playing Republicans suddenly pretended that Twitter was "censoring them" and demanding revenge.
  • Calling out newsworthy exemptions: More or less where both companies have ended up. This still leads to complaints from both sides, but is a form of a compromise -- and one that involves adding "more speech" to questionable speech, rather than completely erasing some speech or pretending that the original speech was perfectly acceptable.
Is this the "best" possible resolution? Almost certainly not. But it does show how the companies continue to struggle through this and adapt to try to come up with solutions that make the most sense in a world where every option has significant trade-offs.

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Filed Under: content moderation, donald trump, fact checking, free speech, labeling, more speech, newsworthy
Companies: facebook


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 11:10am

    To anyone who would call this “censorship”: Please explain what makes it censorship.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Koby (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 11:14am

    Very Workable

    It created a big fuss within (and outside) the company, and as with any situation in which a social media website says it's taking a hands-off approach, it eventually proves to be totally unworkable. It seems to have taken all of a month for Facebook to recognize this as well.

    Why not leave the discussion to those doing the commenting? Why not leave it to the media to report on what is right or wrong with the situation? Answer: credibility. Most of the commenters and media personalities nowadays have gotten so many things wrong in the past that they have great difficulty influencing the discussion.

    So now the busybodies inside the corporation insist on risking their credibility to influence the discussion. If the home team is losing, should the fans rush the field? No, the fans should stay off the field, as should the social media corporate insiders. Never trust a corporation to be the arbiter of truth.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 11:24am

      Re: Very Workable

      Why do all of your comments seem more like The Corbomite Maneuver than reality? Captain Kirk's enemy's are impressed. No one else is though.

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

      • identicon
        Smartassicus the Roman, 3 Jul 2020 @ 12:20pm

        Re: Re: Very Workable

        "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." - Judge Aaron Satie

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

        • icon
          Toom1275 (profile), 6 Jul 2020 @ 8:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: Very Workable

          So long as Kody and his ilk never get the violation of first amendment rights that they demand, that chain will never have its first link.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 11:39am

      now the busybodies inside the corporation insist on risking their credibility to influence the discussion

      If the rules about adding speech to “questionable” speech from politicians on any “side”, how does that risk any credibility? Doing that would, if anything, increase credibility by showing that the admins aren’t showing favor, affection, malice, or ill will towards any given “side”. Neutrality, in this situation, would create credibility.

      Never trust a corporation to be the arbiter of truth.

      We get it, you’re pissed that conservatives are the only ones being dinged by these new rules because conser…okay, because one conservative is, at least right now, telling lies outrageous enough to deserve the extra text from Facebook and Twitter. I could all but guarantee that your tune would change if Joe Biden were the only person getting dinged by the new rules.

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

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 11:42am

        …adding speech to “questionable” speech apply to politicians…

        Whoops, should always proofread these things.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2020 @ 11:55am

        Re:

        Joe Biden's handlers are keeping him as quiet as possible so he doesn't ding himself too much.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 11:56pm

        Re:

        "If the rules about adding speech to “questionable” speech from politicians on any “side”, how does that risk any credibility?"

        What he's saying is that this kind of sensible approach won't get his KKK colleagues unbanned, therefore it's not good enough for him.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2020 @ 3:13pm

      Re: Very Workable

      Moderators are "people doing commenting".

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 5:08pm

      Re: Very Workable

      Why not leave the discussion to those doing the commenting?

      That's not the issue. The issue is whether or not they have violated the policies of the site. In our discussion on Parler, you insisted it was perfectly fine for a site to moderate content that violated policies. Yet when its Facebook doing it... you suddenly start whining about tilting the scales?

      You're not very good at this, Koby. Your double standards are obnoxiously bad and you should think about that.

      Most of the commenters and media personalities nowadays have gotten so many things wrong in the past that they have great difficulty influencing the discussion.

      This may be the least self aware thing I've ever seen you say, and that takes work.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2020 @ 10:24pm

        Re: Re: Very Workable

        Well, Mike, you're good at WHAT again? Getting awards in public with gender bending traitors? How old is this web site? How many comments are from either you posing as someone else or your close "insider" friends? You're good at this? Really?

        Parler, baby, they're good at it. Dan has over 1M followers. Think about that. You have ... Stephen, That one Guy, the lesbian separatist, Chad and Uriel-238?

        What are you good at again?

        I like Koby. His writing is better than yours.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2020 @ 2:34am

          Re: Re: Re: Very Workable

          Yet here you, like a bad smell.

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

        • icon
          bhull242 (profile), 4 Jul 2020 @ 4:28pm

          Re: Re: Re: Very Workable

          Well, Mike, you're good at WHAT again? Getting awards in public with gender bending traitors?

          What the f*ck are you talking about?

          How old is this web site?

          Who cares?

          How many comments are from either you posing as someone else or your close "insider" friends?

          None. The “insider” just means they paid money to get that tag and some other bonuses. They don’t have any stronger connection to Mike or anyone else who actually runs Techdirt than anyone else here.

          Parler, baby, they're good at it. Dan has over 1M followers. Think about that.

          Again, who cares?

          You have ... Stephen, That one Guy, the lesbian separatist, Chad and Uriel-238?

          Among a number of others, myself included. And what “lesbian separatist” are you referring to, anyways? Also, yet again, what does it matter? That’s the classic argument-from-popularity fallacy.

          I like Koby. His writing is better than yours.

          Eh, his writing’s fine, I guess, but his arguments could use a lot of work.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2020 @ 10:43pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Very Workable

            None. The “insider” just means they paid money to get that tag and some other bonuses. They don’t have any stronger connection to Mike or anyone else who actually runs Techdirt than anyone else here.

            Hamilton's gimmick has been, for some time, the allusion that Techdirt being largely populated by supporters instead of dissenters is supposed to be a damning point against the site's reputation or operations.

            The suggestion that being surrounded by yes-men might, ordinarily, be something worth criticizing - if Hamilton had not chosen to use Parler as a counterexample, which intentionally goes out of its way to filter out everyone who's not a yes-man.

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

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 4 Jul 2020 @ 4:19pm

      Re: Very Workable

      Why can’t the corporation say, “I won’t remove this, but I don’t support it”? That’s their First Amendment right to free speech. If they want to “risk[] their credibility”, then let them. Why do you care?

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

  • identicon
    bobob, 2 Jul 2020 @ 12:52pm

    Given that recent polls show trump with a 36% approval rating in handling the corona virus, I wouldn't get my hopes up that facts will get in the way of blatant lying. If facts mattered, that approval rating would be 0%.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 1:40pm

      Re:

      Nothing will shift his diehards(at this point with a global pandemic that name has become rather literal), but it can potentially knock a few of the fringe supporters off who are faced with one lie too many on a subject they consider important, like, oh I dunno, living.

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

      • identicon
        ryuugami, 2 Jul 2020 @ 7:55pm

        Re: Re:

        diehards(at this point with a global pandemic that name has become rather literal)

        I don't think so -- "diehard" means something like "takes a very long time to die".

        When you also consider that the issue is not that they're putting themselves in danger (personal choices etc.), but that they're putting others in danger, we can say that they're the literal opposite:

        killeasies

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 2:00pm

    'Only I am allowed to call people wrong, me!'

    And cue yet another tantrum by Trump and his supporters claiming that fact checking him counts as censorship and persecution, ignoring the rampant hypocrisy that is him accusing others of being wrong all the time.

    It took too long for Facebook to get around to applying the rules even to those that dearly need it, but better late than never, and of the three options this one might be the best assuming they actually follow through after the pending tantrum.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2020 @ 3:15pm

    Facebook would allow that content because he didn't want to be "the arbiter of truth."

    You don't have to be the arbiter of truth. But you can certainly point to verified facts when someone is dangerously wrong or lying.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2020 @ 10:29pm

    Ryan Hartwig
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    ·
    6 hours ago
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    BREAKING: ANOTHER INSIDER COMES FORWARD: “I was seeing them interfering on a global level in elections.” - @realryanhartwig

    Senior HR Business Partner at Facebook Proclaims Skin Color Determines Legal Standing in Complaint Scenarios

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2020 @ 6:49am

    Trouble in paradise, Mike? I can't remember the last time you actually called Zuckerberg's bullshit out without immediately making an excuse for it.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2020 @ 6:53am

      Re:

      Still think we can trust these companies to regulate themselves?

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 3 Jul 2020 @ 7:16am

        Re: Re:

        "Still think we can trust these companies to regulate themselves?"

        Unless they do something that's illegal, yes.

        Unlike the ISP space, where external regulation is desperately needed, there's a wide range of choice for those who dislike FB's policies.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 4 Jul 2020 @ 3:13am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Unlike the ISP space, where external regulation is desperately needed, there's a wide range of choice for those who dislike FB's policies.

          Ah, but you see the alternative choices don't come with the massive user base that Facebook does, and moreoever never will have those numbers, as most people will prefer to avoid bigot/troll-friendly platforms, sticking with the ones where that kind of behavior isn't generally encouraged.

          To the kind of people who believe that they are owed an audience this simply will not do, hence the attempts to force the current major players to host their rubbish rather than making their own, competing platforms, as they know that if they create their own it'll just be people like them on it.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2020 @ 10:44pm

        Re: Re:

        Why not? You're the one who let ISPs run roughshod over everyone else.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Jul 2020 @ 7:14am

      Re:

      "I can't remember the last time"

      That doesn't mean it didn't happen.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 6 Jul 2020 @ 12:00am

      Re:

      I can't remember the last time you actually called Zuckerberg's bullshit out without immediately making an excuse for it.

      Then you have an extremely short memory.

      Might want to talk to a doctor about it.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
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