“I’’m here today because I believe we must continue to stand for free expression,” said Mark Zuckerberg at a large event at Georgetown University last week. The event, according to a post by the Facebook co-founder, was an “unfiltered take on how I think about these questions [of free expression],” though it came off more as a red herring than anything else.
Facebook has been in hot water for years now. From giving people’s information to overseas firms to perpetuating the spread of fake news, the once-harmless social media platform has become a force many fear is interfering in U.S. elections.
The issue of Facebook and their influence in geo-politics is not an issue of freedom of expression. This is an issue of responsible speech.
Understanding the Facebook problem can be difficult, but it can be simply explained with one event. Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) placed an ad on Facebook describing “Breaking News.” The news the ad referred to was that Facebook and Zuckerberg were supporting Trump in the next election.
“You’re probably shocked, and you might be thinking, ‘How could this possibly be true?’” the ad read. “Well, it’s not.” Despite the fact that it included false information, Facebook ran the ad.
“Facebook changed their ads policy to allow politicians to run ads with known lies … turning the platform into a disinformation-for-profit machine,” Warren tweeted while publicizing her untrue ad.
“I don’t think most people want to live in a world where you can only post things that tech companies judge to be 100% true,” Zuckerberg said at his Georgetown University event. What he failed to understand in saying this is that facts are facts — whether a tech company or a private citizen approves them, truth will always be true.
Additionally, there’s a difference between what an average person posts and what Facebook promotes. Facebook spreads advertisements to anyone for whom the advertisements might be relevant—even if the ads are untrue—while a post only goes to those connected to the poster.
If Elizabeth Warren is able to post something misleading in an ad, get it approved by Facebook and have that ad then sent out to people who assume it is true (simply because it is from a notable public figure), then what prevents people with bad intentions from doing the same?
The answer, it turns out, is nothing. The House Intelligence Committee found that between late 2015 and 2017, the Russian Internet Research Agency ran over 3,000 ads on Facebook and other social media platforms, according to CBS News.
Facebook needs to be responsible and accountable for content on its website. This is not a question of whether or not Facebook has the right to promote false information — this is a question of why those at Facebook are content with people actively trying to meddle in U.S. elections.
Zuckerberg, in allowing Facebook to do this, is damaging the validity of elections. He’s helping foreign agents interfere in democracy. This is unacceptable. If Facebook wants to profit off disinformation, then it needs to be held accountable for what it allows on its website. Otherwise, Mark Zuckerberg and the U.S. are opening their arms to foreign interference in the 2020 election.