Are you a conservative Facebook page that supports president-elect Donald Trump, whose post reach and page numbers have tanked?
The reason is none other than Mark Zukerberg who has found a new way to block Conservative and Right Facebook pages from reaching their fan-base.
The social network developed software that suppresses posts from appearing in people’s news feeds, according to three current and former Facebook employees, who asked for anonymity because the tool is confidential – although, I can’t imagine how confidential it is when we all noticed our pages dropping by millions of fans in a matter of hours, according to Roxy Ladie of Prepare to Take America Back.
The feature was created to help Facebook get into China, a market where the social network has been blocked, these people said. Mr. Zuckerberg has supported and defended the effort, the people added.
In the midst of backlash over the stunning victory of President-elect Donald Trump, which some people attribute to the preponderance of apocryphal headlines disseminated by Internet search engines and social media platforms, the companies are tweaking their algorithms in order to target specifically blacklisted sites, many of which happen to be alternative media sites that question the political and media establishment. Many of the sites are also financially dependent on ad revenue earned by organic and referral traffic directed by Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
Now, it appears Facebook’s new algorithmic censorship practices are causing some of its employees to quit.
According to the New York Times, three current and former anonymous employees claim the company has had a new tool developed specifically to restrict certain kinds of posts from appearing in users’ news feeds in certain geographic areas.
This form of censorship has been deployed under the auspices of facilitating Facebook’s entry into the Chinese market.
Previously, the company did this in Pakistan, Russia, and Turkey, where the respective governments requested the ability for third parties to review and block posted content.
Facebook granted the requests and removed approximately 55,000 total pieces of content.
Now Facebook wants access to 1.4 billion people in the world’s second-largest economy, China, and they are willing to adhere to draconian censorship practices in order to do so. It could be a complete coincidence that this new push happens to coincide with Facebook’s crackdown on alternative media, which has caused several employees to tender their resignations.
A Facebook spokeswoman responded to the report in a statement:
“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country. However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China. Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”
The question now is whether there is a connection between two different but simultaneous pushes for censorship by the largest social media platform in the world.
According to the latest news, Facebook began testing new tools to carry out its “censorship plan” with the convenient name of “tackling fake news”
One of the tools being tested will enable users to inform Facebook if certain news stories are using “misleading language”. Some users posted images of a Facebook survey asking them the following question: “To what extent do you think that this link’s title withholds key details of the story?” Guilherme Schneider from the Duran reports.
It is still unclear what kind of actions will be carried out after this additional user data is collected, but it is likely that some sort of a database, containing the list of “misleading” news websites, will be generated.
In a not so distant past, content curators from Facebook confirmed that they received direct orders from the company to decrease the relevance or even hide from the newsfeed stories and content with conservative language. While this happened in the US, similar stories have been reported in Brazil, the United Kingdom around the time of the Brexit, and in other countries.
Recently, there were other reports that Facebook developed a special software for the Chinese market, that would enable “third parties” to authorize the contents before posting it to the users’ timelines. The initiative would aim to lift the current ban of the social network in the country.
The main difference between this new software and the current content restrictions in some countries is that instead of reacting to a government request to hide some specific content, Facebook would be giving the option to some parties to censor and take down content before it is even posted on the network.
It is true that when you create a profile on Facebook or any other social network, you have to accept their terms and conditions in exchange of the “non-paid” use of their platforms. Most of these terms and conditions allow the social networks to analyze the information you are publishing and reading for several proposes, including targeted advertisements and many others, but is it ethical to take advantage of this information in order to define what content you should or should not see?
Since Snowden’s NSA information leak we know that we can be monitored at any given time by government agencies. The realization of this fact, however, didn’t stop us from using the same networks, nor did it prompt the closure of the NSA or other agencies involved in the perpetual recording and storage of our data.
But now we are entering a whole new level in which companies and governments will attempt to define what is right and wrong for us to see, read and talk about. What’s even more bizarre is that the CEO of Facebook could potentially run for office, while retaining control over one of the most popular social networks in the world, with the capability of retrieving and accessing anyone’s data without any sort of legal process or request.
This Orwellian trend is truly scary and we should really start questioning ourselves about the extent to which we are willing to continue handing out personal data and information to these networks.