Sheryl Sandberg Makes Disingenuous Push To Argue That Only Facebook Has The Power To Stop Bad People Online

from the oh-come-off-it dept

While Twitter is opening up to have the difficult conversation about how content moderation and the open internet should co-exist at a time when the President of the US has inspired an insurrection, Facebook, perhaps not surprisingly, has taken another approach. It's one that is condescendingly stupid, and simultaneously self-serving.

Sheryl Sandberg went public to say both that most of the planning for the invasion of the Capitol was not done on Facebook, and that only Facebook was big enough to prevent such things from happening.

She says:

"I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, and don’t have our standards, and don’t have our transparency."

Even if that's true (and that's unclear, and we'll get back to that...) it's a very short-sighted and silly thing to say. At a time when the company is literally facing two major antitrust cases, to run around trying to argue that you're the only one who can handle this issue is just painfully dumb. On top of that, there's no way that anyone can totally stop people from spreading these messages on any platform, no matter what abilities/standards/transparency you have -- and pretending that your moderation efforts are somehow perfect is the kind of stupid thing that (1) will come back to bite you and (2) is easy to disprove.

In fact, it was quite easy to prove that Sandberg's claims are not even remotely true. The Washington Post has detailed how bogus that claim is:

A growing body of evidence shows Facebook played a much larger role than Sandberg suggested.

The #StopTheSteal hashtag was widely used on the service until Monday, when a search on Facebook reported that 128,000 people were talking about it and in many cases using it to coordinate for the rally, according to Eric Feinberg, a vice president with the Coalition for a Safer Web.

And two dozen Republican Party officials and organizations in at least 12 states posted on Facebook to coordinate bus trips to the rally, according to research by the left-leaning media watchdog group Media Matters for America, which published screenshots of the fliers and memes.

“BUS TRIP to DC … #StoptheSteal. If your passions are running hot and you’re intending to respond to the President’s call for his supporters to descend on DC on Jan 6, LISTEN UP!” wrote the Polk County Republican Party of North Carolina in a Facebook post that is no longer publicly available.

Oooof. Meanwhile, even after Facebook and Sandberg said that Facebook had taken down the militias and that it had the "ability to stop hate," it wasn't difficult for a Buzzfeed reporter to find "Stop the Steal" groups still active!

A search on Facebook for the words "Stop the Steal," a rallying cry that the mob who forced Congress to flee chanted, turned up dozens of places where new plots could be coordinated. There are at least 66 groups dedicated to the slogan, the largest of which has over 14,000 members. That group is private, meaning nonmembers can’t access the content, but its description is unambiguous: “to make aware the issues of fraudulent voting practices and Fraudulent ballot counting. also, to make these issues transparent for all!”

Several of these groups were created after the election. The 14,000-member group was created on Nov. 6. Another, with nearly 10,000 members, was started on Nov. 29, and another that has 8,000 members on Dec. 10.

This is the nature of content moderation. You're always going to make mistakes. Big ones. Small ones. Medium ones. You're going to make mistakes. Pretending that you won't is silly and will backfire. And here it's especially stupid given the circumstances.

I'm saying this as someone who has spent plenty of time in the last week explaining to people why it's silly to blame Facebook for what happened at the Capitol. If people didn't plan on Facebook (and, of course, they did), they would have planned this elsewhere. But, it's just gaslighting people to pretend that Facebook has the power to moderate away all bad behavior, and even dumber to pretend that no such planning happened on your platform. I'm sure that plenty of the planning happened elsewhere, but of course some of it happened on Facebook.

I truly do not understand Facebook's continued failure to comprehend how it, and its senior leadership, keep shooting themselves in the foot time after time.

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Filed Under: content moderation, impossibility, insurrection, policies, sheryl sandberg, stop the steal
Companies: facebook


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  1. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Jan 2021 @ 12:00pm

    She gonna not let Zucks run it anymore?


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