How should Facebook treat views expressed by political candidates, office holders and former office holders, considering the importance of political opposition and the public’s right to information?
Fairly, one would think.
And yet the question is not so clear to Facebook’s new oversight board, which is soliciting public comment on the question in relation to Big Tech’s suspension of former President Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, ranking member of the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, commercial and administrative law, has weighed into the matter.
“As a threshold matter, we reiterate our denunciation of political violence of all forms. Online speech that directly incites real-world harm must be condemned and has no place in a civilized society. Unfortunately, we see violent speech emanating from all parts of the political spectrum and being published on various social media platforms, including Facebook,” Buck and 10 members of the panel wrote to Facebook.
“For example, members of the radical leftist group Antifa called for the murder of police officers, the Ayatollah of Iran promised violence and bloodshed against the United States, and conspiracy theorist Lin Wood summoned his followers to execute Vice President Mike Pence,” the letter said.
“The debate about how to effectively deal with these and other individuals is necessary and important. However, we remain concerned that the de-platforming standards are not applied in a fair and neutral manner,” the letter said.
We strongly agree.
In addition to silencing Trump’s account, Facebook admits they have plans to scale back on showing political content, which is defined as social issues and pretty much any discussion of government actions.
Some users may have already noticed there’s barely any political content in their feed recently, while their page is cluttered with random ads about every third post.
The practice used by Facebook in the past, which seems to be making a comeback is called shadow-banning. It means pages like ours aren’t banned, Facebook is just limiting our reach to about 10% of our followers.
Facebook’s also had a ban in place since Nov. 4 on all ads it considers political, which again includes boosting stories that have anything to do with government oversight.
We tried to boost a recent story on jobless Coloradans who are outraged at Gov. Polis over missing unemployment benefits, and Facebook rejected it claiming it violated their ban on political ads.
Not only is that important political opposition, but the public most assuredly has a right to the information being hidden by Facebook.
If Facebook adjusts their community standards effectively censoring all forms of political opposition whether it be tax increases or government overreach because they fear an insurrection behind every criticism, then freedom of speech is already dead.