As the largest social media platform on the planet, Facebook seems to have a great knack for navigating bad press. For years, the site has faced allegations of proliferating fake news stories and campaigns, most notably during the 2016 US presidential campaign, and whilst the site has claimed to have made changes to circumvent this issue, it continually comes under scrutiny for its lax attitude and regulation surrounding its role in spreading disinformation. However, as lawmakers, politicians and critics urge the site to be held accountable for its actions, it remains the most used platform on the planet, with over 1/4 of the world’s population being Facebook users.
In light of this, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has once again been called before the US congress to evaluate the activities of his social media behemoth, being asked to account for the site’s seemingly unorthodox practice of allowing political figures to run false and misleading advertisements on the platform.
In a hearing before the US House of Representatives in late October, the CEO attempted to bid for approval to launch Facebook’s new cryptocurrency project, Libra. During the meeting however, Zuckerberg received an absolute grilling from queen of congress, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, on his company’s absurd allowance of political advertisements that feature disinformation, and at times blatant attacks, on oppositional party figures.
The congresswoman repeatedly asked Zuckerberg to account for why his company refuses to sensor or monitor the perpetual wave of “fake news” that seems to be running rampant on the platform. In asking to what extent Facebook fact-checks its political adverts, and whether the site would remove adverts that contained falsities, Ocasio-Cortez became increasingly frustrated at Zuckerberg’s evasive answers. When asked point-blank as to whether Facebook would remove ads with misleading information, Zuckerberg answered that he believes in democracy, and that the public should be able to judge for themselves the character and intentions of political figures, whilst also admitting that he believes “lying is bad”. Ok chief.
When asked for a final time, Zuckerberg’s answer was just as lacklustre:
Ocasio-Cortez: “So you won’t take them down? You may flag that it’s wrong, but you won’t take it down?”
Zuckerberg: “Congresswoman, it depends on the context that it shows up … organic posts … ads …”
Evading the regulation of lawmakers in the many years since its conception, Facebook has increasingly seemed to be incapable of accounting for the responsibility and power it holds as a social media giant and gatekeeper of information. Since there is no regulation surrounding the posts of a political nature that can be uploaded to the site, aside from those that “target voter suppression”, it has quickly become a breeding ground for disinformation and “fake news”. It seems clear that the platform is in desperate need of regulation, however if October’s congress proceedings are anything to go by, this may yet be an inconceivable pipe dream.
Featured Image Source: CNN.com