On Tuesday, Facebook announced via an open letter on the site, that it will begin working more directly with groups that feel they have been or are the victims of controversial, hurtful or hateful speech through the website to remove and limit the exposure of hateful content. The announcement came as a response to recent complaints from political and activist groups that the social-mecca has been slow and sometimes unresponsive in addressing instances of hateful, hurtful and controversial speech on the site. The announced changes are to take effect immediately and mark an increase in the scope of censorship that the company will impose on users.
Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, has been called out recently by others in the tech industry for the activities of his PAC, Fwd.us. for its involvement in supporting Lindsey Graham’s pro-oil positions. The political action committee claims to aim at supporting candidates on both sides of the aisle that will make progress on immigration but has since convoluted its activities.
Other tech industry giants Elon Musk and David Sacks have since ended their support of Zuckerberg’s group. Musk said in a statement to AllThingsD, “I agreed to support Fwd.us because there is a genuine need to reform immigration. However, this should not be done at the expense of other important causes.” Other groups like the Sierra Club have boycotted Facebook in response to advertisements funded by Fwd.us in the past.
Facebook’s internal practices are patently unknown to outsiders and users need to be educated that the platform they rely on will be making a stronger foray into filtering the information they see. At this point the business claims that it will only be doing using its increased censorship guidelines to reduce and better deal with the amount of hateful and hurtful speech placed on the site by users. But if the past is any indicator of what may be to come, users may stop seeing “controversial” posts showing up in their news feed.
Who will be determining what is considered controversial on the site? Facebook. A company that has no obligation to respect or protect free speech and affiliations with political groups that have a track record of saying one thing and doing another.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.