Last week Facebook announced that it has employed a forty member board to make final decisions about posts that have been taken down. In her article “Facebook Restricts Speech By Popular Demand”, Daphne Keller highlights more than a few of the issues that go along with this new system.
Keller compares Facebook’s new forty person board as a new its own version of the Supreme Court. Instead of taking months for First Amendment cases to go to court, Facebook can quickly look at the post and decide whether or not it fits into their interpretation of the First Amendment. She argues that while this process may seem quicker and easier, the platforms that are implementing this are held far less accountable than our elected officials in the court and can be more restrictive.
Another aspect of Facebook’s attempt to restrict speech is a software that can monitor everything we write, have it be reviewed, and then automatically delete “forbidden words” or hateful content. While this may be good in theory, it is majorly impeding the information we are receiving.
In the age we are living in, the First Amendment has been scrutinized, with people arguing whether it should be amended to fit into our current society or be abandoned altogether. It would seem as though many internet platforms have been paying attention to these discussions and have decided to take matters into their own hands, thus becoming more and more restrictive.
Although I can understand the importance of internet platforms regulating inappropriate media such as child pornography, after that “inappropriate material” becomes less concrete. What I mean by this is that child pornography is illegal and therefore you cannot dispute it being taken down. But these internet platforms are taking down material that some software or group of people have decided is “obscene” and “hateful”, but those definitions are loose and up to interpretation. What I may find obscene and offensive could be different from someone else, so how can these internet platforms be allowed to decide something so abstract?
Furthermore, with internet platforms taking down content that can be viewed as hateful, it is censoring us from the true evil that is out there. I would much rather know what groups such as White Nationalists are planning so I can be prepared rather than not know and not be able to do anything about it. Knowledge is power and if our knowledge is restricted it can only lead to more dangerous situations. Although I would love to ban White Nationalists from not spreading their ideas, it is practically impossible and if you ban them from one platform they are just going to find another way to get their message out.
Internet platforms have been given to much power to censor the messages we are receiving. Even if they claim their reasons for doing so are for the safety of their users, it is actually more dangerous to censor them. We should not give a software or a random group of people the right to decide what we get to see or what we get to say.
I cannot agree more on how unfair it is that other people get to decide what is “obscene” or “hateful”, when they’re abstract and everyone has different opinions. I love the fact that Facebook is trying to eliminate hateful speech and bullying, but how will a fake Supreme Court fix that? I do believe they come from good intentions, but I do not think the outcome of it will be what they want. When someone wants to say something, they will say it – whether it’s Facebook or not. If Facebook censors it then they will just post it somewhere else.