There’s this odd propensity to push for the removal of a thing, if that thing can be misused by bad people. Social media, in particular, has had to adjust and wrap their platforms in order to protect the few from the fewer bad apples. Twitter has taken steps to actively police its users, and has established a totally-not-Orwellian-sounding “Trust and Safety Council.”
The gun debate in the United States often takes aim at removing guns from the majority of responsible gun owners because of the few people with instability issues.
This recent think-piece on Australia’s “Rendezview” site further encapsulates this thinking, lambasting Facebook for its new dating product. I am not familiar with the product itself, but the thrust of the article is that the endeavour is foolhardy because bad people could potentially abuse it.
It seems to overlook the idea that if bad people want to do something bad, they will find ways to do it. This isn’t to suggest that Facebook has no ownership of ensuring its users’ safety – they do – but any tools that people create are always going to be imperfect.
Give people a system, and they will game it.
I am somewhat unsurprised to see that the article digs at Facebook’s supposed role in allowing Russians to create chaos in the 2016 United States General election – which has so far offered zero evidence that the meddling had any influence on the outcome. I don’t think that Russia didn’t play around with the election – just that there is little evidence to date to suggest that the Trump campaign colluded with them, and that the result would’ve been different.
And they dig at Facebook for the Cambridge Analytica revelations? Is the author not aware that data mining is what Facebook is about, and is how they monetise their vast platform?
I feel that Facebook is facing this vocal backlash, not because they were blind to interference, but because Facebook doesn’t do enough to suppress wrong-think. Their recent announcement that they will be ranking news outlets based upon “trustworthiness” just screams of passive-aggressive partisanship. Even the softest cynic will wonder how exactly they deem sites trustworthy, and whether or not the outcome will lean one way or another.
And conservative sites are already looking at previous outcomes of Facebook’s algorithmic dalliances.
The media’s pressure upon Facebook appears, to me, driven to push Facebook to become another outlet for one side of the political debate. The coordinated masses want their ideas promoted first and foremost, and dissenting views silenced, mocked and ignored.
And competing social media platforms that promote free speech (such as gab.ai) are then smeared as “alt right” and “nazi”. I haven’t used Gab.ai, and cannot speak as to its sympathies, but I do worry that any platform that indicates that they won’t coddle their users, and silence any speech is smeared as a haven for Nazis.
We don’t need policing of speech. We need impartiality and honest debate without the horrific labeling of opposing views. And certainly we shouldn’t base policies on whether bad people can misuse them.