Taking A Step Away from Censorship: Facebook Abandons Fake News Bans

Image Source: Pixabay

Image Source: Pixabay

The fake news craze has been everywhere since Trump rose to power: CNN does it on the daily, Russian bots keep baiting left and right wing Americans, and most of everyone posting fake news is pushing his or her own ideologies and agendas. This is, of course, hard to manage when your platform is where they are posting it. Facebook is in this position. After they got into this spat with the US government, Facebook has been trying to curb the rise of fake news left and right, even suspending and banning users who are accused of posting fake news. Of course, this isn’t going to sit well with free speech advocates and with those who were wrongfully accused of posting fake news.

For Free Speech

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With the number of people quitting Facebook for different reasons, one of which is Facebook’s complete disregard of free speech (which should be the complaint by those who were wrongfully accused of being Russian bots or posting fake news), it isn’t a surprise to see that Facebook has abandoned their tactics of removing fake news. The company finally made this decision, according to BBC, stating that “fake news is not our friend,” but they will stop removing fake news because it does not violate its community standards.

Instead, however, they are going to “demote” it, making it not appear on top of the posts people would want to see. This is, of course, a type of shadowbanning, but it’s a whole lot better than just banning people.

During their event in New York last Wednesday, Facebook tried to woo the journalists that they are tackling the “fake news” problem. Oliver Darcy, a CNN reporter asked how can that be when Facebook is allowing InfoWars to remain up on Facebook.

Facebook’s John Hegeman responded that they “created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice.” Facebook, in their Twitter account, posted that they all see fake news from both left-wing and right-wing accounts and have decided that it would be against the Principles of Free Speech should they ban any of these pages. Instead, they will be demoting these pages should they be proven false by their fact checkers, and would demote the accounts and pages that repeat this offense. Sara Su, working for Facebook, said that she finds conspiracy theories and fake news as something that arereally problematic.

Getting Somewhere, But Not Quite There

An example of the insanity in InfoWars (Image Source: cyberspaceandtime)

An example of the insanity in InfoWars (Image Source: cyberspaceandtime)

While it is true that InfoWars is a conspiracy newsgroup that fancies itself as CNN’s rival, much of InfoWars contents do not violate Facebook guidelines. All of their posts are either conspiracy theories or criticisms of current actions in politics, especially against the right wing. And although their conspiracy theories are demonstrably false, no one is being harmed and most people can tell that they are insane, to the point that they cause the most entertaining memes, such as the infamous “turning the frogs gay” meme.

On this, Facebook has taken a very positive step towards free speech. Though shadowbanning can still be a problem, such a thing has a workaround, like getting promoted and shared by your own followers. It would be, however, unreal to ask Facebook that they stop taking any stance against fake news because world governments might turn on them, such as what US left-wing politicians did when they lost the Presidential elections to Trump. US and UK, both countries with very aggressive left-wing parties, and Europe, with very vocal pro-censorship supporters, may just flatly ban Facebook, should it piss them off. Both YouTube and Twitter are already conforming to Germany’s censorship laws, for example. Such a thing is abhorrent. But reality has always been filled with abhorrent truths.