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About Facebook and Free Speech October 18, 2019

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.
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I read Mark Zuckerberg’s commentary on Facebook and free speech with a measured amount of incredulity.  Measured, because it was about what I expected him to say.  Incredulity, because with Facebook standing for fake users, made up news, fake ads, political influencing, and the dark underside of the Internet, he has the chutzpah to claim that he is all about free speech, and the rest be damned.

Free speech is a wonderful ideal, and rallying cry.  I would love to be able to claim a free speech mulligan for anything said online.

It’s not that easy.  Especially today and in the future, when speech is not just limited to face to face.  We tend to say things online that we would never say in a live setting.  And can do so anonymously, or even with a pseudo identity.  And we can make up things, and manufacture news, and it is accepted by many readers.

So if we let everyone say anything they want, in any identity they want, we end up with people with the time, money, and clout who say whatever it takes to get attention.  They can slur individuals without evidence, make absurd claims without proof, and bring discord and division to people who should know better.

So this is where free speech gets messy.  When so-called free speech includes lies, slurs, insults, unwarranted accusations, and more that can potentially reach millions of people, it is dangerous to individuals and society.  We try, imperfectly, to mitigate that danger through laws governing bias and hate, but the likes of Zuckerberg battle against both honesty and integrity, in the name of the almighty dollar.  You heard me correctly; Zuckerberg has no personal or professional integrity.

And that means that Facebook has no desire to mitigate such danger.  Zuckerberg knows this, but his advertising dollars are more important to him.  In a sense, he is propagating his own set of lies in order to achieve his goals of money and power.  And he is succeeding, despite the cost to society.

I debated writing this at all, because no one has listened to my screeds of Facebook in the past.  And Zuckerberg certainly has a much broader reach than I could ever hope to achieve.

I don’t believe that Zuckerberg is naïve to the subtilities and practical limitations of free speech in the Facebook era.  However, he is highly cognizant of the profits he makes by allowing anything, whether or not truthful in any sense of the word, to be given the same credence as real news and facts.

And don’t kid yourself; the MSM still delivers the vast majority of truth that is published.  Facebook is not a news creator; they have no reporters or editorial staff.  They get their “news” from those whose interest it is to manufacture it, and to pay for it.

The only other thing I will add is that we (well, not me, because I have never used Facebook) enable Zuckerberg to pervert free speech into whatever he wants in order to make money.  Remember that the next time you log on.