The hour of reckoning may be arriving for Facebook, a company that has managed to become among the most arrogant and dangerous social media firms today.
Why dangerous? The evidence has mounted that, despite its promises to reform, the social network has failed to rein in those who use it as a powerful weapon to both unsew democracy and to incite violence here and abroad. There is not only the question of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, but the issue of anti-Rohingya campaigns in Myanmar and the connection to anti-refugee attacks in Germany and attacks on minorities in India and Sri Lanka.
Why arrogant? Because time after time, Facebook has promised to reform itself and assured us greater technological advancement will solve the problem, even as it deepens. We know now that Facebook’s own engineers discovered in 2016 that Russians were using the site for posting material that would disrupt the American democratic process. The company’s top leaders reacted not to protect the country but to protect themselves and their profits. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive, said in late 2016 that it was a “crazy idea” to think Facebook could be used to manipulate the presidential election. This year, he went before Congress and robotically lectured them about the company’s crucial importance to international communication.
And all of this was done as Facebook adjusted its algorithms to suppress professional independent journalism on the site in the U.S. and beyond.
Earlier this week, this page called for congressional inquiry into longstanding concerns over what has been called Facebook and Twitter’s conservative problem — an increasingly apparent bias against certain political speech that shouldn’t be tolerated from companies that our law has granted such wide and unregulated power over American discourse.
There is little question, at this stage, that Facebook has lost any credible claim that it can police itself. Like all internet platforms, it enjoys unusual protection from laws governing traditional publishers. But that could now be up for scrutiny.
Given the anger from both left and right in Congress, it is hard to believe the moment hasn’t come for hard considerations about this company — the leader in social media.
That can include reviewing the liberty social media platforms enjoy from libel law. It can include reining in the way they access and use users’ data to monetize people’s lives. It can include holding companies responsible for how foreign powers use platforms to stir unrest abroad and control their populations at home.
The hour has come for Facebook to be held responsible. We know now, in a hundred different ways, that it is incapable of responsibility itself.
— The Dallas Morning News