Zuckerberg’s pledge to depoliticize Facebook hits grassroots movements

“Facebook is unwilling to actually monitor violent white nationalists, which means they create these blanket guidelines so they don’t have to deal with the real problem,” said Rashad Robinson, an outspoken Facebook critic and president of the Color of racial justice group Change. “It will be a problem for both sides.” We are not the other side of violent white nationalists. “

The new policy applies to Facebook groups – often used by organizers and country-specific chapters – and not to Facebook Pages, which are more commonly used by candidates and campaigns. However, Caitlin Mitchell, a senior adviser to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, said removing recommendations for users to join political or civic groups would have “potentially had a huge impact” on Biden’s 2020 campaign if the politics were then would have come into force.

The Biden campaign used informal, country-specific networks that partnered with Democrats to find volunteers and other supporters during the coronavirus pandemic when they minimized face-to-face meetings. Under current Facebook policies, it would have been a lot harder for these groups to get their first footing and involve people, Mitchell said, making it harder for new political entrants to find local organizing groups.

Samantha Steelman, who led the national organization of Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, said country-specific pro-Buttigieg groups popped up all over Facebook after Buttigieg gained a foothold in the 2020 Democratic primary. “They grew because they were recommended to like-minded people in their area,” said Steelman. “We shall see that the ripple effect of this no longer occurs.”

The recent change of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg also led digital strategists and candidates, who increasingly rely on Facebook as a critical pipeline for voters and donors, to ask existential questions about the future of politics on their platform, citing the Comment from the CEO The company would consider taking new steps to restrict the political content on its newsfeed.

Some strategists took this as further evidence that Facebook’s political advertising ban – a self-imposed ban on advertising and advocacy ads from election day 2020 – won’t be lifted anytime soon.

“We no longer hear” soon, soon, soon “and it is now more indefinite,” said Julia Rosen, a democratic digital strategist. “All of this seems to be a pretty clear signal that they want to move away from politics on the platform.”

Several advisors from both parties said they had asked Facebook for clarity on what it could mean to emphasize politics in the newsfeed. You have not received any further instructions from the company.

A spokesman for Facebook said in a statement that the company’s research showed that “some people believe their news feeds are too political.”

“This is a problem we are still figuring out how to best understand and solve,” the company said. “Our goal is to find a way to address this feedback where people get a clear understanding of how we deal with political content in the news feed, respect their tolerances for political content and maintain their ability to deal with such content interact with Facebook as much as you want “

Currently, Facebook’s closer elimination of parliamentary recommendations is already confirmed by the online organizational community.

The 2017 women’s marches led to the growth of large online communities such as Indivisible and Pantsuit Nation, while the protests against Black Lives Matters also intensified on social media platforms. Groups like Sunrise Movement, an environmentally conscious progressive group, and Americans for Prosperity, a conservative activist organization, also use Facebook groups to organize supporters through local chapters.

“Would the Blue Wave Resistance have formed in 2017? Yeah, but not that much. Would the surge in activism around George Floyd have happened? Yes, but not that much, ”said a senior democratic digital strategist who allowed anonymity to openly discuss the issue. “It would have kicked us out by maybe 20 percent. So that limits us by 20 percent, but QAnon by 80 percent.” Would I take the trade? Yes.”

Facebook’s new stance will also be an important test of how the platform defines a “political” group, said Evan Greer, director of the Fight for the Future digital rights group, which organizes digitally, including through Facebook groups.

“The decision about what is political or not is a very political decision in and of itself,” she said. “Are you going to consider a local veterans group political? If so, won’t they consider a local antiwar group political? Would you consider an LGBTQ support group political? … Frankly, all of these things are political. “

Facebook’s decision comes at a particularly dangerous time for the company as social media giants clash with politicians on both sides. Following the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol, Facebook has come under tremendous pressure from Democratic leaders in Washington to crack down on political misinformation and violent online content. Meanwhile, Republicans are railing against Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies for booting former President Donald Trump from their products and accusing them of suppressing freedom of speech.

Brent Bozell, president of conservative media and tech watchdog group Media Research Center, said Facebook’s new policies could lead to more of what he calls anti-GOP censorship.

“This is the nightmare that many conservatives have warned about and that the media dismissed as alarmists and conspiracy theorists,” he said in a statement. “First it was President Trump, now it is the entire conservative movement.”

Eric Wilson, a Republican adviser who led Marco Rubio’s digital effort in the 2016 presidential primary, warned that “politics will violate the recommendations of any group, whether QAnon or reputable,” adding that “some groups are reaching fewer and fewer people this is a.” Challenge, but it doesn’t turn off functionality. “

“It’s a tight change that was made as a PR stunt, and we actually need to turn Facebook political ads back on,” Wilson said.

Dozens of House Democrats asked Facebook last week to make its policy of not recommending parliamentary groups permanent. Even after this promise, however, the democratic leaders are pushing for broader commitments.

“To make meaningful improvements in our information ecosystem, we need much bigger reforms of the company’s core product, which is polarization and extreme content,” said Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) MP, who co-directed the latest letter.

Tim Karr, senior director of strategy and communications at advocacy group Free Press, said the company should be able to address these reinforcement concerns without harming grassroots and civic groups.

“Facebook has the ability to correct its recommendation algorithm to exclude white supremacists, militias and conspiracy groups that are still in its midst, and to do so without harming well-intentioned organizations that use its platform to organize,” Karr said . “This is not rocket science.”

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Who headed the letter with Eshoo, said he was not concerned about the new policies affecting political organization “as long as these new rules apply to everyone equally”.

“Having access to Facebook for campaigning is a nice thing, but it’s not necessary for democracy to work,” he said. “There are many ways to reach voters.”

In his remarks on Wednesday, Zuckerberg admitted that political groups can help “organize grassroots movements, speak out against injustice or learn from people with different perspectives”.

He added: “We want these discussions to continue. But one of the most important feedback we are hearing from our community right now is that people don’t want politics and struggles to take over their experience of our services. “

But Malinowski and others say they aren’t buying Facebook’s reasons.

“These remarks did not tell me that he really understood the problem or was ready to acknowledge the problem,” said Malinowski. “The problem is not that people are tired of politics. The problem is not that there are already divisions in society that Facebook must now heal. Facebook helped create these departments. “

Leave a Comment