A few weeks ago, Silicon Valley reporter Kara Swisher held a podcast interview with Mark Zuckerberg, in which they dissected the controversies surrounding Facebook and social media. Zuckerberg, brought an unprompted example about Holocaust deniers to support his reasoning for keeping shows like Infowars on Facebook. That swallowed much of the headlines, and stirred controversy online.
Kara Swisher wrote a column in the New York Times breaking down the interview, and while I do not agree with her every word, there is one thing we cannot avoid. Facebook still sees itself as a startup, whilst the rest of the world sees it as a behemoth. Facebook acts as though if they act as though they are still just some small service that wants to connect people, rather than the News feed, entertainment outlet, and ultimately critical component of everyday life for so many. The fact that they still manage to act as though they can just ignore fake news outlets and others is ridiculous, and borderline absurd. Many will argue that they have taken steps to mitigate fake news. At this point, it almost feels out of spite, in response to the backlash the company has received.
What is the solution? I have no idea, because I understand why you would not want to discriminate between different types of speech. It creates arbitrary standards, and makes it hard to draw clear lines between what is dangerous speech and what is not. However, if Facebook wants to be the news source it wants and claims to be, than it has some responsibility to inform others of which sites are “fake news” and which are not.
To what extent any of this will help is hard to guess. As long as the internet exists, there will be forums to amplify speech that we disagree with. Regardless, Facebook needs to stop with the naivety and really think long and hard about what Facebook is and what it will become.