Mark Zuckerberg is under fire once again over Facebook’s lack of oversight and protection of user’s privacy. This recent call to action comes just weeks after the social media site struggled to remove over a million post of the deadly terror attack in New Zealand where a white supremacists killed 49 and injured 50 more when he went on a hate-filled shooting spree at two Mosques. Last week, in response to user outrage and negative media coverage, the social media giant announced last week it would ban posts and accounts that espouse white supremacy. Since 2008, Facebook has grappled with the idea of oversight, claiming that it was similar to a news organization and was to protect the First Amendment rights of its users.
Critics of this stance have pointed to the numerous abuses by Facebook users who have used their accounts and private groups to recruit terrorists, white supremacists and neo-Nazi’s. The addition of Facebook Live, just a few years ago, sent users further down the rabbit hole as this platform was being abused by hate groups and homicidal individuals who’ve live streamed acts of hate and murder, much to the chagrin of users.
There has also been frustration among users who’ve felt Facebook was unnecessarily selective and didn’t have the proper team in place to review posts and content and remove them in a manner that was expedient. Many have criticized Facebook’s leadership for reacting to situations after public outcry as opposed to putting in place safety measures that would prevent such consumer abuses.
In addition to these problems with the site and how content is shared by users, problems with user privacy continue to plague Facebook and Instagram, a photo and video sharing site also owned by Facebook.
Instagram, with over 1 billion users is the latest to see user abuses, particularly when it comes to hate speech and extremism. Regulating this site proves a challenge because of its design. Users have the ability to set their accounts to “private,” only allowing those whom they approve to view the content posted to their profile page. Because Instagram’s parent company Facebook relies heavily on users to report offensive posts, this poses a challenge they did not anticipate and regulating accounts in this manner is virtually impossible.
Last year, after testifying before Congress and many lawmakers calling for the company to do ore in regards to oversight, particularly when it comes to user privacy, Facebook announced that it would hand off the oversight responsibilities to an independent company. In the announcement, Zuckerberg told users that while keeping people connected was Facebook’s primary focus, the company also had “a responsibility to keep people safe.”
He continued, “When you connect 2 billion people, you’re going to see all the good and bad of humanity. Different cultures have different norms, not only about what content is okay, but also about who should be making those decisions in the first place.”
In a later interview with journalist Ezra Klein, Zuckerberg backed up the aforementioned comment by paralleling his responsibility to that of the government. “Our goal is to err on the side of giving people a voice while preventing real-world harm,” he writes. “These are not problems you fix, but issues where you continually improve.”
This move to establish an oversight committee was seen as a cop-out by some who felt Facebook was doing this to avoid being held accountable for decisions made to remove certain content and that Zuckerberg’s response to what many view as a serious breach was lacking in sincerity. Others wondered whether or not the new committee will operate any differently than what had already been in place.
Zuckerberg explained to Klein that there would be an initial determination that could be appealed by users. “The basic approach is going to be if you’re not happy after getting your appeal answered, you can try to appeal to this broader body. It’s probably not going to review every case like some of the higher courts. . . it will certainly need to be transparent about how it’s making those decisions.”
By modifying the Facebook Live tool, removing hate speech and establishing an oversight committee is Facebook doing enough to remedy the very real problems it is having and will these be enough to restore what is now flailing confidence in its users?
Zuckerberg offers his concern, but does very little in the way of offering reassurance. “One of the biggest questions we need to figure. . . is how to do the selection process for this body so that it’s independent. . . if the group ends up too tightly decided by Facebook it won’t feel like it’s independent enough.”
A number of journalists and critics believe this effort is destined to fail, just as the fixes Facebook offered to protect user information. However, Zuckerberg disagrees, “I think we’re doing the right things to fix the issues. As far as the time it will take the company to put such protocols into place, Zuckerberg says, “I don’t think me or anyone else could come in and snap their fingers and have these issues resolved in a quarter or half a year.”
Due to user concern as to whether or not the committee Facebook is to establish will be fair when it comes to deciding what content is offensive or not, Zuckerberg announced Monday, April 1, 2019, that the company is seeking user input. This is just after publishing an op-ed over the weekend where Zuckerberg came out in favor of government regulation, a stand he refused to take earlier.
Consumers will be able to participate in a survey to help guide the oversight committee and how they will function. Is this too little too late? Zuckerberg promised controls over Facebook and user content more than eight years ago. It wasn’t until U.S. intelligence agencies found Russian interference in the 2016 elections was done largely through fake accounts and bots on Facebook that targeted specific populations of voters, posted incorrect information as to the location of polling places and posted erroneous information about specific candidates that Congress began to question the site’s safety and demanding accountability from its owner. In its defense, Facebook proclaims to be a work in progress with regards to these concerns and pledges to continue to monitor these developments while continuing ts goal of connecting people online.
What do you feel about the recent Facebook User Privacy issues? Don’t hesitate to discuss! Comment below, or shoot us an email. If interested, please send your thoughts to Outreach@ConsiderTheConsumer.com, find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or even connect with us directly on our website! We look forward to hearing from all of you.
About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, and co-host and producer of “All Our Own” radio show and podcast and co-host of “Staggers State of Things” on the Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been featured on MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!
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