Canada is going to the elections tomorrow. It’s been more polarizing than normal, whatever that even means these days. Social media has it on full display.
Facebook announced that it will not ban poltical ads that contain known falsehoods, in defense of free speech.
Given the sensitivity around political ads, I’ve considered whether we should stop allowing them altogether. From a business perspective, the controversy certainly isn’t worth the small part of our business they make up. But political ads are an important part of voice — especially for local candidates, up-and-coming challengers, and advocacy groups that may not get much media attention otherwise.
Let’s rewind to 2016 - a fucked up year by most standards. Trump was elected, and even Mark admitted he didn’t anticipate nor fully accept responsibility for all the things that happen on his platform. First there was that tone-deaf denial. In their defense, they later started taking responsibility. So after three long years of doing that, hiring thousands to combat the issue, it just feels just so strange that we ended up here.
All for this ridiculous fear that Facebook will no longer be a place for free speech. Newsflash: it never was. Facebook is many things - but neutral is definitely not one of them.
Facebook said “focusing on authenticity and verifying accounts is a much better solution than an ever-expanding definition of what speech is harmful.” Here’s how I read that: “We will block fake news from fake accounts. But real people, especially those real people that benefit the most from fake news - they’re cool. They can stay. Infact, we’ll take their money and promote them.”
Conversations defending Facebook’s right to exercise American values on a global platform (don’t get me started) revolve around how Facebook is so different. That’s true along many dimensions. User generated content at scale changes the game in significant ways.
But here’s the crux of it. The finely tuned economic engine for Facebook behaves like a publisher. Not only is it taking advertiser money, it’s also exercising broad editorial standards. Just like a publisher. These are significant truths, albeit inconvenient for Facebook.
Here’s how this all feels. Mark doesn’t like what Facebook is today. He wants it to be a place where free speech can flourish, and hopefully not damage democracy in the process. But doing one without the other - that’s messy work. People work. Not high-gross-margin-platform-business work. And after years of effort trying to make it all, well, work…the answers still aren’t clear. Idealism is all that’s left.
Except it’s nowhere near enough. Here’s what bothers me the most - If you accept responsibility for something, you have to do it fully. Commit to it, for the long term. And if you don’t want to take it on - that’s fine too. Just don’t say one thing and do another.