The pretense or reporting “false content” will allow ideological censorship.
“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.” – Voltaire
Americans have a unique set of rights, the first of which acts as the foundation for those that follow. This foundational right, secured by blood, and transcribed with ink, allows us to speak freely, without fear of reproach from the government. However, censorship doesn’t always come from the government; it often comes from within our own citizenry. This kind of censorship is much more dangerous to a free society than that which comes from the government, because it is less concrete. This censorship is insidious.
According to The Wall Street Journal:
“Facebook tries to alert users when an item in the news feed is satire. Now, it will tip off users to hoaxes, as well.”
Several months ago, Facebook began prominently labeling satirical articles appearing on news feeds so that users could tell the difference between real news, and fake news. Yes, it was enough of a problem that Facebook decided to take the initiative. Despite the ridiculousness of the initiative, it was harmless. However, a new program being touted by Facebook that would let users report what they believe to be false content could cross the line into censorship.
Once again, according to WSJ:
“If enough people report a piece of content, a notification will be added to it saying ‘Many people on Facebook have reported that this story contains false information.’ Facebook didn’t say how many times an item will have to be flagged to trigger the warning. Facebook said it won’t remove the posts identified as false. But they’ll likely appear less often in users’ news feeds, in part because users might delete them or share them less frequently.”
The notion seems harmless enough, and even sounds nice upon first thought, but there’s a significant problem. If users decide what constitutes “false information,” what is stopping them from labeling content which they find personally disagreeable as “false?” A large enough coalition of users could essentially alter the landscape of news presented on Facebook because they find it personally disagreeable, even if it doesn’t actually contain any false information.
The crucial piece of the puzzle is the definition of “false information.” Opinion is slippery, and as such, it is often difficult to pin down the hard facts. I strongly disagree with most of what is said by the Democrats, but politics, by its very nature, is dominated by opinion. Additionally, differences of opinion can change the way certain facts are perceived. This initiative could have a dangerous effect on political news.
By giving every user the power to label content as “false,” regardless of whether or not the content actually contains false information, Facebook would be allowing perceptions to be manipulated on a broad scale. If someone sees a “false information” label on an article, they are less likely to read it. However, if the article doesn’t actually contain any false information, and is simply being unfairly labeled by those who disagree with it, a point of view has just been eliminated from the debate. This initiative has the potential to stifle debate, and handicap one side of the political argument. It’s censorship through the citizen.
Two final thoughts:
First, is this necessary? Have we become so stupid that we believe everything we come across? Are we so mush-brained that we must rely on nanny Facebook to tell us what is true, and what is false?
Second, because the founder of Facebook is a raging liberal, which side of the debate do you think would be more likely trampled?