Opinion | Facebook’s Speech Policies Are Even More Arbitrary Than We Thought

Indeed, if Facebook wanted to demonstrate that it had incredible power over the language in the United States, including the language at the center of the nation’s political debate, and wield that power arbitrarily, it would have no idea what its own rules really are or be shouldn’t have handled the question differently.

The Facebook v Trump case is an open invitation to political actors to step in to reduce the power of the social network or to write new rules for it, and in fact, Trump-friendly Republicans are loudly calling for action.

It is not clear what the best solution is or if there is a solution, but there is obviously a problem.

In its wisdom, the Facebook board of directors said it was “not allowed” for Facebook to impose an indefinite, standard-less penalty on Trump for indefinite suspension – and then upheld the suspension!

It asked Facebook to review the suspension within six months and made some suggestions on developing rules to be followed in such cases, what an Alice in Wonderland quality is – judgment first, rules about whether the judgment is correct is or not later.

The board of trustees underscores the amazing fact that Facebook invented it on the spur of the moment when it made its most significant free speech decision in that country, determining whether or not a former president of the United States could use its platform.

“In applying this penalty,” writes the board of directors of the suspension, “Facebook did not follow a clear, published procedure.”

This is like the US Supreme Court making decisions in the absence of a written constitution or when an arbitrator calls balls and strikes with no agreed strike zone.

Two Trump posts on January 6 resulted in suspension. Trump’s video was released at 4:21 p.m. That day was too little, too late, but it was not incitement. After uttering shameful “I feel your pain” sentiments about the rioters, Trump urged them to “go home and go home in peace.”

He followed with his tremendous 6:15 p.m. Post about such things that happen when elections are stolen but also said in this one: “Go home with love in peace.”

Facebook interpreted these posts as violations of its community standards for dangerous people and organizations that “do not allow organizations or individuals who proclaim a violent mission or are violent to be present on Facebook”. The standards cite examples of mass murder, human trafficking, and organized violence or criminal activity.

The standards also prohibit content that expresses support or praise for those involved in such activities. Here Trump’s contribution is said to have exceeded the limit.

This is a minor breach. Facebook would have more credibility if there was evidence that it searched its platform and removed the posts of people who expressed feelings during the riots surrounding the George Floyd protests: “I understand your frustration with the police work and ours Justice system and admire your passion, but please, don’t loot or burn things. “

If Facebook was just to say that Trump is often harmful and dishonest in his social media posts, that would be understandable, but that would get it into the inherently subjective and highly controversial business of deciding which politicians are worthy and truthful and which ones don’t.

Mark Zuckerberg got it right the first time, when he was not that long ago fight It wasn’t Facebook’s job to rewrite the nation’s political debate.

Some Republicans, like former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, are responding to the social network’s Trump decision that Facebook should be disbanded. It is not clear what powers the federal government would have to do this. More targeted attempts could be made to force neutrality on social media platforms unwanted consequences and would voice their own concerns about freedom of speech (companies would argue that they cannot be forced to make speeches they refuse).

However, there is no doubt that Facebook, already harassed on all sides, has hung a lantern on its disturbing combination of power and whimsy.

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