“A conservative Facebook employee” overruled climate scientists
June 25, 2020 6:14 AM   Subscribe

Scientists working with Facebook to fact-check articles issued a warning last August about an op-ed in a US newspaper that attempted to undermine the climate science consensus by using misleading data. Facebook’s policy is to pass along fact-check warnings to users when they share such articles. But due to the intervention of an as-yet-unidentified employee, the scientists were overruled in this particular instance and Facebook stopped telling users that the article was false. As a result of these actions Facebook has quietly opened a loophole in its policy, allowing disinformation to be shared as ‘opinion' immune to fact-checking. Meanwhile, the group that was behind the op-ed — a well-funded climate science denial advocacy organization with deep ties to conservative activists, policy makers, and US government officials— plans to exploit this exemption to reach a larger audience. One of its primary messages is that additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is actually good for the Earth, a message that it has previously targeted to children through cartoons on Facebook.

In April of 2019 Facebook partnered with fact-checking site Science Feedback to begin assessing the accuracy of certain articles shared by users that pertained to climate science or health issues. As one of over 75 member organizations of the International Fact-Checking Network, Science Feedback has a rigorous verification process for articles, drawing on the expertise of a large community of scientists. According its own policy Facebook would not be involved in the fact-checking, nor in resolving any complaints from publishers that could result from a 'false' rating. If a publisher wanted to dispute a fact-check, it had to take up the issue with the scientists who did the checking.

So in August, when an op-ed about climate models in the Washington Examiner was deemed “complete bullshit” by the climate scientists who reviewed it, Facebook users who wanted to share the article were informed of the 'false' rating, posts containing it were made less visible, and the CO2 Coalition — the conservative climate science denial group behind the op-ed — was blocked from advertising on the site. Here is the scientists' full analysis of the op-ed.

But this was all quickly reversed. After the CO2 Coalition complained to Mark Zuckerberg about the false rating "a conservative Facebook employee," who the CO2 Coalition says is assisting them, removed the false label and the group was able to resume advertising on Facebook. According to reporting in September, [paywalled WSJ], Facebook had created a new rule for opinion pieces partly as a result of this dispute and it would hereafter exempt them from fact-checking. No such rule has been publicly acknowledged. Not long after, in October, Facebook changed the language in its advertising policies to exempt political ads from fact-checking. [previously]
posted by theory (92 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of its primary messages is that additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is actually good for the Earth

This is a MAJOR talking point for climate deniers. I've been collecting comments for years and this is a top one. It's maddening.

"Plants need carbon dioxide! They love it! How could that be?"

They love childhood level science but nothing beyond that.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:20 AM on June 25 [13 favorites]


Maybe everything on Facebook needs a large flashing label saying "this is probably a lie. "

Even if it's just your brother saying what he had for lunch.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:21 AM on June 25 [37 favorites]


Maybe social media that doesn't further repression isn't possible to exist at large scale because if it did someone would buy it and use it for that. Maybe we should stop trying to put fact checking bandaids on this completely busted model. Maybe Facebook is all of our active enemy in a way distinguishable from say MS - MS sells stuff to people, FB sells people to stuff.
posted by PMdixon at 6:35 AM on June 25 [20 favorites]


tiny frying pan: ""Plants need carbon dioxide! They love it!"

It's got what plants crave!
posted by adamrice at 6:47 AM on June 25 [8 favorites]


Over ten years ago an adoptee friend of mine played a prank on Facebook.

Using photoshop, he conjured up photos of a "long lost brother" who found Jeremy on his long search for his biological parents.

Updates came throughout the evening of his exploits with his "long lost brother," which got more and more dangerous and wild.

The sad thing is, only one or two of his friends (myself included) saw through it, mostly because of his reference to past experiences and places (like a mutual disdain of Tracy, CA). Even his ex-girlfriend messaged him wanting to know more about his brother.

Facebook should have never, ever been a place to discuss news. The entire purpose of a Facebook profile is to create a hyperreal version of yourself that you "sell" to others as the real version of yourself. It's an ad platform, top to bottom, the entire thing is based on how you want others to perceive you.
posted by deadaluspark at 6:53 AM on June 25 [22 favorites]


Google's failure to be a true Facebook competitor with G+ has totally stifled any attempts to challenge Zuck & co. I hate it, but that's where my family, friends, and local companies are and they're not going anywhere. I left Twitter a couple of years ago (Mastodon is fine for me) but I'm stuck with Facebook for the foreseeable future.

I hate to say this but maybe Google should try again. Facebook is so large now that small, federated services like diaspora have no chance in hell of competing but a company Google's size does.
posted by tommasz at 7:02 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


"Plants need carbon dioxide! They love it! How could that be?"

This is the science equivalent of “a national economy is like a household budget”.
posted by acb at 7:10 AM on June 25 [23 favorites]


Facebook is so large now that small, federated services like diaspora have no chance in hell of competing but a company Google's size does.

Can you help me understand what you think that would improve?
posted by PMdixon at 7:12 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Can you help me understand what you think that would improve?

At least having a duopoly means you can ignore the worse one.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:23 AM on June 25 [4 favorites]


"Plants need carbon dioxide! They love it! How could that be?"
My go-to response to that idiocy is "they also love cow manure. Want to drink a gallon?"
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:23 AM on June 25 [12 favorites]


i know stuffing zuck into a wicker man would accomplish nothing of value save perhaps a more fruitful harvest but man i sure would enjoy it
posted by poffin boffin at 7:35 AM on June 25 [64 favorites]


A Flurry Of Companies Are Joining The Growing Facebook Boycott (Forbes, June 24, 2020)
An advertising boycott of Facebook called for by top civil rights groups continues to gather momentum with over a dozen big-name companies announcing they will not work with the tech giant until “meaningful action” is taken to address misinformation and hate speech.

Civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, launched the #StopHateForProfit campaign on June 17, pressuring large companies to halt advertising with a platform they say doesn’t stop “bad actors using the platform to do harm” at least through the month of July.
Companies mentioned in the article:
  1. North Face was the first big brand to join the boycott, announcing Friday that it would halt all U.S. paid advertising with Facebook and Instagram
  2. outdoor apparel stores REI and
  3. Patagonia
  4. freelancing platform Upwork.
  5. Web browsing company Mozilla
  6. clothing chain Eddie Bauer
  7. film distributor Magnolia Pictures
  8. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream
  9. in addition to a number of smaller brands that have pledged their allegiance on social media, including outsourcing service Higher Ring
  10. online therapy startup, Talkspace, withdrew from a six-figure content partnership deal with Facebook earlier this month
According to the Wall Street Journal, digital ad agency 360i encouraged its more than 50 clients last week to join the movement against Facebook and another agency, Chemistry, has reported that many of its 20 clients are considering halting their ad purchases with Facebook and Instagram.

While this is focused on Facebook's fostering and spreading of hate speech, its spreading of misinformation is also noted as a reason that companies are boycotting.

Facebook generated $69.7 billion from advertising last year, trailing Google as the second-largest digital marketer.

Facebook Ad Boycott Grows, But Likely Won't Dent Q2 Revenue (The Street, June 25, 2020)

Too big to fail be held accountable?
posted by filthy light thief at 7:36 AM on June 25 [18 favorites]


Looking at Facebook’s incentives right now is illustrative: Ben Smith recently reported in the NYT about Zuckerberg’s choice to stay close with the Trump White House: “ Mr. Zuckerberg needs, and appears to be getting, a pass both on angry tweets from the president and the serious threats of lawsuits and regulation that face other big tech companies. Mr. Trump needs access to Facebook’s advertising platform and its viral power. Both men are getting what they want,” but now, with Trump’s chances appearing to slip, “What had looked like deft Trump-era politics now looks like exposure and risk.”

Meanwhile, Biden has long been in favor of repealing Section 230: “ Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wants to get rid of the legal protection that has shielded social media companies including Facebook from liability for users’ posts. The former vice president’s stance, presented in an interview with The New York Times editorial board, is more extreme than that of other lawmakers who have confronted tech executives about the legal protection from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.”

What happens if Facebook starts feeling desperate?
posted by sallybrown at 7:36 AM on June 25 [9 favorites]


My go-to response to that idiocy is "they also love cow manure. Want to drink a gallon?"

Or point out that we have a lot less plants than we used to? I'm assuming we do, what with logging activity.

Or hey, maybe spin that to "oh, hey, maybe then that's a reason to cancel the push to expand logging rights so that we still have the trees around to eat up that CO2 we're making."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:40 AM on June 25


They love childhood level science but nothing beyond that.

I think it's more basic than that. They love any fact/theory/anything that serves their greater position. It's confirmation bias 101.

Whenever I come across stuff like this, I'm reminded of an idea I heard discussed a while back -- that there should be a international Confirmation Bias Week (or at least day) every year. In school, the main project would be for the student to choose something they firmly believe to be true and research the opposite: try to prove themselves wrong.

It's one of those seeds you want to plant at an early age. Good science education does this anyway, but way too many people just aren't getting good science education.
posted by philip-random at 7:41 AM on June 25 [13 favorites]


Repealing Section 230 would be the end of most of the open web.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:42 AM on June 25 [14 favorites]


They love any fact/theory/anything that serves their greater position.

I don't agree, because having too much carbon dioxide and it being good for the planet isn't a fact. They ignore those. Their "common sense" isn't science.
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:44 AM on June 25


so it would belong in the "anything" category then.
posted by philip-random at 7:46 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I hate [Facebook], but that's where my family, friends, and local companies are and they're not going anywhere.

I've abandoned Facebook; my family, friends and local companies are still there and they're not going anywhere either - and yet we all remain in touch, sharing news, views and special offers by other means. I'm not missing out on anything.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 7:49 AM on June 25 [13 favorites]


Another connection between Facebook and conservative media—this time, Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire, which games Facebook’s system while likely breaking its rules:
Popular Information has discovered a network of large Facebook pages — each built by exploiting racial bias, religious bigotry, and violence — that systematically promote content from The Daily Wire. These pages, some of which have over 2 million followers, do not disclose a business relationship with The Daily Wire. But they all post content from The Daily Wire ten or more times each day. Moreover, these pages post the exact same content from The Daily Wire at the exact same time. The undisclosed relationship not only helps explain The Daily Wire's unlikely success on Facebook but also appears to violate Facebook's rules.

Content posted to these five pages has generated more than 31 million engagements on Facebook over the last three months, according to CrowdTangle, an analytics service owned by Facebook. To put that in perspective, the reach of the network over this time period exceeds the New York Times (28 million engagements), the Washington Post (20 million engagements), and HuffPost (19 million engagements). How did the pages like Mad World News and The New Resistance grow so big? They did it by exploiting racism, religious bigotry, and violence.
Meanwhile, “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a relationship with Shapiro, who Zuckerberg has hosted at his home. According to a source who has spoken with Shapiro, Zuckerberg and Shapiro remain in direct communication.“
posted by sallybrown at 7:55 AM on June 25 [10 favorites]


I've abandoned Facebook; my family, friends and local companies are still there and they're not going anywhere either - and yet we all remain in touch, sharing news, views and special offers by other means. I'm not missing out on anything.

That's the thing - it's not about you.

You have the privilege (and yes, being in a place where you can walk away from one of the largest social fora in the world with little negative personal impact is very much a form of privilege) to walk away - but what of those who don't, many of whom are members of vulnerable groups? Are they to be left behind and sacrificed?

Walking away is not a solution, and we need to stop treating it as such.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:59 AM on June 25 [20 favorites]


Walking away is not a solution, and we need to stop treating it as such.

First they came for the Napster users, and I did not speak out --- because I had moved to BitTorrent.
Then they came for the MySpace profiles, and I did not speak out --- because I had no MySpace profile.
Then they came for the Facebook profiles, and I did not speak out --- because I had already deleted my Facebook profile.
Then they came for MeFi --- and there was no one left to speak for MeFi.

---

The poem is in jest, but I 100% agree that walking away and leaving the vulnerable who don't have as much choice is not the solution. The original poem I'm cribbing obviously has the same opinion.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:04 AM on June 25 [6 favorites]


Rest assured that I continue to strive towards finding a social media model which is safe and useful for everyone.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 8:12 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]



Walking away is not a solution, and we need to stop treating it as such.


if I walked away from Facebook, it wouldn't be my close family or closest friends I'd lose touch with, it would be a sort of second tier. People I no longer work with, people I no longer live close to, people I no longer have a regular reason to be in contact with. So it wouldn't kill me but it would hurt, it would profoundly undermine certain aspects of my network.

A ctrl/f of this thread reveals zero hits for "strike". That's what I'd like to see with regard to Facebook's fundamental institutional assholishness. That's something I could get behind. And do it soon, this summer. Set a period of days (at least three) and spread the word. Then let's all disconnect for a while. See what happens.
posted by philip-random at 8:14 AM on June 25 [10 favorites]


I think what is being missed here is just how terrifying and dangerous this is. We have less than 10 years to avoid irreversible, permanent devastation to human life, with a body count in the billions.

And Facebook is actively fighting to make that happen.

I always joked They Live was a documentary from the future, but shit, that's not a joke anymore.
posted by Ouverture at 8:18 AM on June 25 [14 favorites]


[Folks, we've been around the pros and cons of quitting facebook thing before; as a discussion community we collectively know pretty well that it's complicated and that there are aspects of privilege involved in what you could call social media mobility. This is a post about Facebook governance and climate change, let's keep the focus there.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:21 AM on June 25 [9 favorites]


Here let me waterboard you and tell you how much plants love water

Seriously though, deliberately targeting kids and lying to them is sick. Advertising bullshit to minors is not part of any free speech ideals I care about.
posted by freecellwizard at 8:51 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


I think what is being missed here is just how terrifying and dangerous this is. We have less than 10 years to avoid irreversible, permanent devastation to human life, with a body count in the billions.

The things Facebook will not take a meaningful stance against:

1) racism that doesn't use direct slurs
2) anti-semitism/holocaust denial;
3) denying the probable genocide of hundreds of millions due to climate change;
4) rampant mysogyny;
5) fascist rhetoric from the head of their state;
6) directly eliminationist rhetoric against the Rohingya during active ethnic cleansing by Burma;

Things it will:
1) anti-*ist and environmental groups that advocate direct action to prevent the above;
2) copyright violations as long as the copyright is owned by major corps;
3) women's nipples.

Their actions betray the attitudes of their senior leadership team.
posted by jaduncan at 9:00 AM on June 25 [37 favorites]


Curious about the environmental impact of burning Facebook to the ground and salting the earth.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:24 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


After Cambridge Analytica, it would be no surprise to learn Zuckerberg has Facebook staff who are handpicked by Trump's team, vetting information that impacts reelection prospects and sculpting the message appropriately, and that he knows about it and encourages it. In addition to that Mellon-funded entity and helping overthrow democracies overseas to make a dollar, Zuckerberg has shown again and again to have hitched his wagon to the Trump administration in ways that extend past ideological sympathies to direct action that hurts and kills innocent people. We don't just need to close accounts, we need a non-corrupt government that will investigate Zuckerberg and take the necessary legal actions to dismantle his business operations in entirety.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:36 AM on June 25 [12 favorites]


uBlock Origin is an excellent lightweight ad blocker available for most of the major browsers. Using it when browsing Facebook will reduce the value of their ads, moreso if this practice is widely known.

Just sayin'.
posted by suetanvil at 9:54 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


For anyone who is a little more tech-savvy, a PiHole plus uBlock Origin is possibly the best combination ever to get away from Facebook ads and misinformation in general.

I've been toying with the idea of starting a "misinformation/disinformation" PiHole blocklist to ensure none of that crap even hits my network. Which means its more than likely someone else has already beat me to it and I just need to find the one that's already been made.
posted by deadaluspark at 10:08 AM on June 25 [12 favorites]


Please do block ads, and hide misinformation/ disinformation, as you browse the internet, but every now and again, look at the unfiltered internet and realize that's how most people experience it.

Because if we forget about the ads that track people across platforms, and the lies spread by the government in the name of continued control when telling the truth would mean that they lose power, we can forget that this is how everyone else is being treated.

And if we forget that, we won't fight for a better internet for everyone. Privilege looks like different things in different situations, and the ability to walk away from Facebook, or block ads and lies to make browsing FB more pleasant, are other forms of privilege.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:30 AM on June 25 [14 favorites]


Facebook has already helped bring about a genocide in Myanmar. Helping to bring about a climate apocalypse seems a logical next step.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:05 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


rmd1023, I keep thinking about that, and India's use of misinformation (The Atlantic, April 1, 2019), when people say "look, Facebook is being bad now, in the US!"

Where were they before? Also, let's not say "job done!" if moderation or filters are improved for/in the US, but doesn't get better in/for other parts of the world.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:10 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]


Plants need carbon dioxide! They love it! How [bad] could that be?"

With all that carbon in the air, crops such as cassava don't bother to store so much in their roots, so kiss a major part of the world's food supply goodbye — the part left after the ravages of drought and blistering heat punctuated by downpours that strip away the soil, that is.
posted by jamjam at 12:19 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


but every now and again, look at the unfiltered internet and realize that's how most people experience it.

I use tools to stop trackers and ads on FB and have unfollowed or unfriended every wing nut in my news feed but I often wonder what my Trumper mother-in-law sees when she looks at FB. Is there a way to see FB unfiltered without risking contamination from trackers and ad services that take advantage of these loopholes?
posted by photoslob at 12:24 PM on June 25


After Cambridge Analytica, it would be no surprise to learn Zuckerberg has Facebook staff who are handpicked by Trump's team,

I laughed at this and was trying to craft a water(boarding) quip that was actually funny, cow pie totally wins for the thread snark points. But is the issue being examined with as much care as it deserves.

Repealing 230 seems to make sense in this instance but would there be unintended consequences for the good side of free speech? Easier for problematic governments/corporations to shut down legitimate debate?

Is Trump a short term anomaly or a force of history, I vote for anomaly that has less than a year for continued significance. Don't forget to fight to the death for an asshole to make an asinine comment.

Is there a way to use fb to attack the message, fb wants dollars not republican good wishes. Is buying ads on fb throwing good money to bad, seems like it be could be analysed more carefully than I'm able.

Plants need carbon dioxide!
Don't hide from the message embrace it, plants need a balanced environment, the wrong PH or too much clay or too much water kills plants. I like messages like "no plants, no beer" that may get a message across to the reactionary. Too much C02 kills all (except maybe mutant kudzu)
posted by sammyo at 12:25 PM on June 25


photoslob: "Is there a way to see FB unfiltered without risking contamination from trackers and ad services that take advantage of these loopholes?"

Firefox has a couple of add-ons for quarantining Facebook: first is called "Firefox multi-account container" and the second is called "Facebook Container." I have both active in FF.
posted by adamrice at 12:44 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


I'm old enough that I never 'got' facebook, though I use it.
I blocked all my right wing classmates (i.e.: all but like 5) and have never followed any sort of news site or any company at all except guitar gear ones, and whenever something remotely news adjacent pops up I click on the 'show me less of this', and I run ublock plus 2 specific extensions to lock it down and remove 'features' that I find useless.
I go on regular un-friend safaris so I've pared it down to a small amount of people who don't annoy me.
I never see any kind of news on FB, and use it mainly to buy and sell guitar gear, and make posts about my newly acquired bass.
If you do all this, it's OK-ish. Not very useful, but not offensively stupid.
Still toy with deleting my account a few times each month.
posted by signal at 12:56 PM on June 25


If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd say Facebook and Twitter are acting like such shits for the precise purpose of getting section 230 repealed. Repeal wouldn't affect them much because they have lots of money with which to pay attorneys, bribe politicians and prosecutors, and otherwise evade any meaningful sanction.

Any possible competitors would not have those resources, which would further cement the position of the existing tech behemoths.
posted by wierdo at 1:22 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Whether people can't compete or not, it will be a MASSIVE drain on profits and resources.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 1:29 PM on June 25


All the Free-Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) studies have found that after a few years of carbon enrichment, most plants down-regulate their carbon uptake, with many decreasing stomata density. They don't take up more carbon in the end, they just can get the same amount of carbon with fewer stomata or less time spent with open stomata each day.

One of the only plants that doesn't do that is poison ivy, which grows more and produces more urushiol with higher carbon dioxide. Ecologists are eternally grateful to Jackie Mohan for discovering that great tidbit to share at parties.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:33 PM on June 25 [10 favorites]


My facebook feed is a realtime example of the Dunning–Kruger effect. The reasonable voices have all left and its an echo chamber of imbeciles.
posted by ShakeyJake at 2:11 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


Repealing Section 230 would be the end of most of the open web.

I don't believe that for a minute. Facebook would like you to believe that because it provides them with the immunity to propagate the garbage that makes them rich.

There is no reason that publishers of information should not be subject to the same rules as the New York Times or CNN. Publishers should be responsible for the information they publish. If something is libelous or damaging, they can take down the false information or else put a notice on it when notified. If they refuse, they can be sued.
posted by JackFlash at 3:00 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I don't believe that for a minute. Facebook would like you to believe that because it provides them with the immunity to propagate the garbage that makes them rich.

Section 230 indemnifies sites from the content that users post. If someone comes up to Facebook and says "we're going to file suit against this user for this content. Are you going to remove it or face a lawsuit?" then Facebook (and every other service provider) is going to remove the content. You would see it weaponized so quickly it would make your head spin.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 3:19 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]


Like if I was Ben Shapiro and I hated the things people said about me on MeFi, the day Section 230 gets repealed I knock on cortex's door with a cease and desist and basically every bad thing that MeFi has said about Ben Shapiro. cortex now has two options, remove it or be a defendant in the suit. By the way, we're suing in federal court and we're going to do it in a jurisdiction that's a giant pain in the ass for cortex to fight it in.

Now what? Does cortex fight it? Keep in mind that there's no federal SLAPP law so MeFi is on the hook for all the costs. Also, Shapiro is going to be bankrolled with people who accrue zeros on their bank balances for sport. Or does he remove anything that smells even remotely actionable?

Trust me when I say you do not want Section 230 repealed.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 3:38 PM on June 25 [7 favorites]


You don't need to gut 230. Anti-trust law should be sufficient to break up Facebook and Google. You might end up with a bunch of hate farms instead of one big one. The threat of break up would be enough to get Facebook to start behaving more responsibly. but we can't have so much media power controlled by so few people.
posted by rdr at 3:40 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


"But Rock", I hear you saying, "why can't cortex just put a hold harmless clause in the user agreement and have the users indemnify MeFi and assume the risk?"

OK. Shapiro sues a user and they're now on the hook for defending both themselves and MeFi. I'm sure everyone here has a spare cool half a million for a retainer, right?
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 3:41 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


Somehow the New York Times and CNN survive without Section 230 immunity. Facebook couldn't abide by the same standards? The notion that Facebook is just some passive bulletin board is a joke. Facebook is a publisher. They spend billions each year to actively select and push specific content to their users for profit, just like any other publisher.
posted by JackFlash at 3:44 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


Repealing Section 230 would be the end of most of the open web.

So the obvious fear is that frivolous lawsuits would bring the ruin of websites, such as Metafilter.

If that was true, newspapers would be sued out of existence, and yet their web presences persist, despite greater requirements for verity and real-world examples of frivolous lawsuits centered on verifiable information.

There are civil damages for filing frivolous suits, including recovery of legal fees. The emergent property would be for everyone to either side of a dispute to be on the level or suffer consequences.

Shapiro might get away with a hypothetical case, but probably not. Odds are more likely that he — like Trump — incurs monetary and/or reputational losses.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:46 PM on June 25


BREAKING: Verizon is pulling advertising from Facebook and Instagram "until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable"

I look forward to a future when Facebook's only remaining advertiser is MyPillow.

A boy can dream.
posted by gwint at 3:48 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]


Somehow the New York Times and CNN survive without Section 230 immunity.

They DO have Section 230 immunity for user generated content. Everyone does. That's the whole point. If someone posts a comment on a NYT story saying "Ben Shapiro can't have an orgasm until he's killed a puppy" then they're indemnified for it. They're not indemnified for it if one of their writers puts it up as a story. The stuff they put their name on they're acting as publisher, and for slander the users post they're a provider.

It's been widely established that if you passively host content you exercise editorial control over you can only be sued if you materially alter user posted content to be actionable. For instance if someone posts in the NYT comment section, "Ben Shapiro doesn't have sex with donkeys" and some moderator changes "doesn't have" to "has" then they've lost Section 230 protection.

If that was true, newspapers would be sued out of existence, and yet their web presences persist, despite greater requirements for verity and real-world examples of frivolous lawsuits centered on verifiable information.

Yes. People in the comments section of any website have thoroughly researched information with vetted sources. Plus newspapers usually have a rich benefactor and a fat sack of cash backing them up.

The whole reason Section 230 exists in the first place is because back in the 90s every person was suing websites and information service providers for hosting forums where someone was slagging another person off. It was literally made to fix this problem by indemifying websites for users' actions.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 3:54 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]


a PiHole plus uBlock Origin is possibly the best combination ever to get away from Facebook ads and misinformation in general.

Add in F.B. Purity and it's like there's no ads. No sponsored boxes. Nothing except idiots screaming at each other.
posted by mikelieman at 3:54 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


the ability to walk away from Facebook, or block ads and lies to make browsing FB more pleasant, are other forms of privilege.

Thanks, it's good to be reminded once in a while. Many people essentially use facebook to access the internet.

Is there a way to see FB unfiltered without risking contamination from trackers and ad services that take advantage of these loopholes?

Sure, running it in a VM for example. But Facebook is pointless without being logged in, and the second you're logged in there are all kinds of fun ways Facebook itself is tracking you.

The only way to win is not to play, and a whole lot of people have to either play or not use the internet.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:59 PM on June 25


There's a middle ground between total repeal of Section 230 and the status quo.

For instance, you could require that all online platforms with over, say, one million users a year are required to have moderators who screen all posts for false and defamatory content.

Larger platforms could afford to do this (they already have moderation; they'd just have to get a lot more serious about it). Smaller platforms (like MeFi) would be exempt.

It's time to end the era of platforms that thrive on advertising sold against algorithmically promoted false and inflammatory material.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 4:02 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


That's the whole point. If someone posts a comment on a NYT story saying "Ben Shapiro can't have an orgasm until he's killed a puppy" then they're indemnified for it.

And you think that's a good thing? You don't think that the NYT should be required to abide by a take-down notice for obviously false and damaging posts? You don't think the NYT should be liable if they have a practice of never moderating obvious damaging crap?

If the NYT is smart enough not to publish a liable story, why would they not be smart enough to not allow a liable posting?
posted by JackFlash at 4:11 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


please don't make me imagine having to interact with ben shapiro thank you carry on
posted by cortex at 4:13 PM on June 25 [10 favorites]


Facebook deleted my account claiming I wasn't a real person. I had never made a single comment or had any friends. What I did do was look into the sovereign citizen right-wing-nut Bundy militia during their takeover of the Malheur bird sanctuary in Oregon, to try to figure out what was going on and the network of people involved and since Facebook was a major communication channel for them, it was easy to see the web of connections (Plus I was taking a month long vacation for all the overtime I did in previous months so had some time to dig). Again never commented or friended or favourited anything during this period. Just observed silently. But a few days after it was all over, Facebook had somehow discovered me, decided I wasn't real (sure it was a throwaway account and of course I didn't use my real name but it was a plausible name) and deleted the account. Now maybe Facebook does some house cleaning from time to time but the account was probably 6 years old at that point. And I have another account there that I made around the same time with a similar name (still not my name and technically in violation of the same policy). Also, no comments, favorites or friends. Just didn't use it during the standoff and it is still functional. I figure Facebook was going through some stuff for the FBI (Code named; Operation FilterMeta) but since they can track pages viewed, my account (while empty in interaction was full on in the metadata action) could have been just noise to be deleted BUT if they figured out I was spying and reporting to Metafilter then MetaFilter is likely on file at an FBI file building somewhere replete with typewritten pages speculating about the brains behind the operation or the command cortex ;)
posted by phoque at 4:15 PM on June 25


And you think that's a good thing? You don't think that the NYT should be required to abide by a take-down notice for obviously false and damaging posts? You don't think the NYT should be liable if they have a practice of never moderating obvious damaging crap?

What's false? What's damaging? Is it actionable? Is the person a public figure? Are they a limited purpose public figure? Are they just a regular person? Is it actual malice? This is the thing. You're trying to get a website to moderate based on standards that have case law out the wazoo. That's why its blanket liability. The NYT doesn't get pulled into court because some person is arguing they're not a public figure even though they probably are and the threshold is actual malice.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:29 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


Like these things that do seem obvious to you and me, they're not so cut and dried in a court of law. The whole Vic Migonga case started because it came out on Twitter that he's a sexual predator. Vic sued the people who he thought started it (and has so far resoundingly lost). In a word without Section 230 protection what if Vic threatened Twitter with a lawsuit and Twitter took it down? Or they thought it was damaging? This is what I'm saying. If Section 230 is lost the situation will most certainly be weaponized.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:32 PM on June 25


What's false? What's damaging? Is it actionable? Is the person a public figure? Are they a limited purpose public figure? Are they just a regular person? Is it actual malice? This is the thing.

If CNN or the NYT can make that decision for their own content, why can't they apply the same standards to hosted content? They make those decisions every day. It's the same problem. They deal with it.
posted by JackFlash at 4:32 PM on June 25


If CNN or the NYT can make that decision for their own content, why can't they apply the same standards to hosted content? They make those decisions every day. It's the same problem.

Because every asshole on the Internet has an opinion and not every thing every asshole says has a point where an organization could be willing to stand by the comment editorially. Far more likely is they'll just close comment section. This is the point.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:34 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


A bulletin board doesn't have to post everything every asshole has to say. They can moderate their content, just like any other publisher. If they receive a take down notice, they can consider taking down the content. Not every confrontation has to end in a lawsuit.
posted by JackFlash at 4:38 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying it will end in a lawsuit. I'm saying it'll be weaponized. Are you even reading my posts or are you just reflexively jerking your knee every time you refresh the page?
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:40 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying it will end in a lawsuit. I'm saying it'll be weaponized.

You are simply making an assertion without evidence. No other democracy on the planet has a Section 230 equivalent. I'm not seeing the death of democracy or free speech around the world.
posted by JackFlash at 4:50 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


Because most of the services operate under US jurisdiction and the protection of Section 230.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:59 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


People in the comments section of any website have thoroughly researched information with vetted sources. Plus newspapers usually have a rich benefactor and a fat sack of cash backing them up.

The NYTimes (sorry to again use them as an example) has a comments section. It is a moderated section of the site, granted, but it is a commentary section where people post all kinds of unverified information, which remains seemingly indefinitely.

The paper, itself, publishes incorrect information (occasionally in the science section) and it makes silent corrections, without offering an edit history through its public-facing site. If it is notable enough a change, especially to a headline, a third-party Twitter account traces some edits. Otherwise it all goes down a digital memory hole.

Somehow, the paper has not yet been sued.

Part of the fear underlying holding Facebook to account for what it does is that society now does not value facts as strongly as opinions, has allowed opinions to be delivered as facts, and has allowed companies like Facebook to get away with monetizing this behavior on behalf of extremists and right-wing populists who are actively destroying democracies around the world, including the US.

We have allowed fear of facts — and fear of Facebook, to some extent — to dictate our laws and what we expect for ethical behavior around truth-telling. It is a vicious feedback loop, in that operating on the basis of opinions that Facebook republishes promotes that fear, in the first place.

When you talk about S230 repeal leading to "weaponization", consider that Facebook is already a weapon, one doing a great deal of damage.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:03 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I often wonder if there is a way to use existing systems like Facebook to spread truthful and useful information more effectively. They're obviously good at spreading misinformation, why can't they be good at spreading information as well?

Is the problem:
1. There's no money in it?
2. The people who would be interested in doing so are bad at it?
3. The people who would be interested in doing so think it's unethical?
posted by demiurge at 5:08 PM on June 25


Somehow, the paper has not yet been sued.

Because they're not liable for the stuff that users post currently. That's Section 230 at work.

The paper, itself, publishes incorrect information (occasionally in the science section) and it makes silent corrections, without offering an edit history through its public-facing site. If it is notable enough a change, especially to a headline, a third-party Twitter account traces some edits. Otherwise it all goes down a digital memory hole.

This is published work and if there were something actionable they'd sure as hell be sued.

When you talk about S230 repeal leading to "weaponization", consider that Facebook is already a weapon, one doing a great deal of damage.

There's some nuisance vandalism and repealing Section 230 is like proposing the best way to solve it is to burn down the city.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 5:14 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I’m sorry, but I do not accept that you are helping underprivileged people when you help a company make money that spreads content that leads to people killing each other, that partners with organizations seeking to undermine democracy, that as we see now is helping destroy the planet (climate change and pollution disproportionately affect the poor) and that hires people in PTSD-inducing jobs moderating content that.. well I’ve seen a post with animal cruelty that got past the moderators once that was incredibly disturbing, that I can never unsee, that pops into my head unbiddden at random times .. and I saw this years ago. I can not in good conscious contribute to an organization that does this to people all day every day. I don’t believe your helping underprivileged people when you actively contribute to the network effects that make this platform viable. I believe you are doing the opposite.
posted by antinomia at 5:17 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]


I'm reminded of an idea I heard discussed a while back -- that there should be a international Confirmation Bias Week (or at least day) every year. In school, the main project would be for the student to choose something they firmly believe to be true and research the opposite: try to prove themselves wrong.

I once belonged to a local branch of a skeptics society, and one of our projects was to sponsor a contest where schoolkids picked paranormal topics to debunk. We got a bunch of eager kids who, when finding out they were supposed to sift evidence about vampires from reputable sources, weren't interested.
posted by acrasis at 5:23 PM on June 25


This is published work and if there were something actionable they'd sure as hell be sued.

And they have been: Did you read the link I posted above from the paper, about Trump's libel suit against it? This is the system working as expected, when facts are valued over opinions, and Trump's lawyers don't get their way. You can't file frivolous lawsuits without consequences.

There's some nuisance vandalism

I get that we're not going to share the same opinion on this subject, but I'd hope we can both work from the same set of facts. I strongly encourage you to watch the two-part Frontline documentary about the company, or read some of the links that others have posted in this thread about what it has done to help establish or strengthen murderous authoritarian regimes for monetary gain. Its behavior would appear to go well beyond nuisance vandalism.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:23 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Please don't derail from the initial spirit of the post.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:35 PM on June 25


There's some nuisance vandalism and repealing Section 230 is like proposing the best way to solve it is to burn down the city.

There's more than "leave it as it is" and "full repeal". The problem with Section 230 is that a) Silicon Valley has spent the last two decades turning it into widespread blanket indemnification that basically has rendered anything that touches users "not the platform's problem", and b) at the same time the tech community has turned any discussion of reviewing Section 230 (which, let us remember, is over two decades old, written before the explosion in online services) into a political third rail, arguing that even thinking of reviewing the law will lead to the downfall of the internet. Thus we get arguments like holding hosts liable for hosting nonconsentual pornography somehow being a danger to free speech.

It's long past time for a genuine appraisal and reconsideration of Section 230, especially in light of how services like Facebook are behaving.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:00 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]


The Internet's most important—and misunderstood—law, explained
Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland, and the Brookings Institution's Ben Wittes have proposed a more holistic alternative that would avoid turning Section 230 into Swiss cheese. They would revise Section 230 so that immunity is only available to platforms that take "reasonable steps to prevent or address unlawful uses of its services." The law wouldn't spell out what "reasonable" means, instead leaving it up to judges to flesh this out on a case-by-case basis.

While that vagueness might seem like a downside, it would have benefits. One of them is that it would create an incentive for online service providers to improve the quality of their moderation over time. If most sites in a particular market category—like dating sites or online classifieds—adopt a measure to discourage illegal activity, the courts could find that companies refusing to follow suit have behaved unreasonably and lose Section 230 immunity.

In other words, Citron and Wittes' proposal would make liability law online more like what exists in the offline world. Ordinary tort law gives the courts significant latitude to decide whether companies took reasonable steps to avoid harm to their customers and others. Citron's reform proposal would bring this same kind of flexibility to the law governing online intermediaries.

A reasonableness standard could also provide flexibility to deal with varied types of defendants differently. Facebook should probably be doing more to stop harmful content than someone with a personal blog that accepts comments. The court could find that precautions that are reasonable for an individual with a blog—or a startup with only a handful of employees—are not sufficient for a technology giant like Facebook.

Citron points out that online intermediaries like Google and Facebook have far more power than they did 20 years ago. "With power comes responsibility," she writes. "Laws should change to ensure that such policy is wielded responsibly. Content intermediaries have moral obligations to their users and others affected by their sites."
Online content moderation lessons from outside the US
In 2000, the European Union passed the E-commerce Directive which, similar to India, opted for a safe harbor approach, if the platform is a “mere conduit”, or if it expeditiously removes illegal content, once made aware. It also expressly adds that member countries should not ask platforms to actively monitor the content they host. Two decades later, much like in the US, there are mounting calls for an update to the Directive, from its own Executive Commission. However, unlike the US, there has already been significant movement at the level of member states.

Unlike other countries that are preoccupied with the cases in which the platforms may be shielded from liability, Germany’s 2017 Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) and France’s 2020 Fighting hate on the Internet bill focus on how and when internet companies will be punished, via heavy fines. Created in an attempt to halt the dissemination of unlawful and harmful content online, these laws give platforms a brief (24 hours in Germany) or very brief (1 hour in France) time period to respond by taking down supposedly-unlawful content that individuals complained about. While stopping short of asking for constant monitoring, this would arguably lead to more restrictive moderation practices.

No longer part of the European Union, the UK released a 2019 White Paper on Online Harms, which would go further than any other EU regulation. Beyond the now-standard perspective of asking platforms to have a mechanism for taking down unlawful content, it introduces the notion of an undefined “duty of care” which brings with it proactive and constant scanning of posts (still not allowed within the EU), all under the patronage of a new regulatory institution which would have ultimate authority, including creating and enforcing best practices, issuing fines and even prison sentences.
Tech responsibility and accountability for governments - "What is the responsibility of government - and who is accountable - when we rely so heavily on private tech companies?"[1,2,3]
posted by kliuless at 12:34 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


In a time when the federal courts have been packed with masses of right wing judges unafraid to display naked partisanship, I'm not very comfortable with leaving the judiciary to define what is reasonable when it comes to moderation practices.

That said, given a revenue or size threshold sufficient to limit the applicability of changes to the Facebooks, Twitters, and Googles of the world, fuck 'em. They made their bed, let them lie in it. Lawyers need work, too.
posted by wierdo at 1:50 AM on June 26




Facebook and Twitter stocks dive as Unilever halts advertising

So a thing about advertising is that there's the ad but there's also its context. For example, if you buy a Superbowl spot, you're showing your ad but you're also saying, "Look at us! We're legit! We can afford a Superbowl ad."

(In fact, eTrade did literally that in a Superbowl ad not long after the dot-com crash.)

But the reverse is also true: the advertisers legitimize the medium. If you can get (e.g.) Toyota to advertise in your magazine, you're signalling that your advertisers are Real Businesses with Real Advertising Budgets and you can use this both to bring in a better class of advertiser and to increase your rates.

This is especially true of websites, which traditionally don't vet ads at all and in any case aren't *that* hard to set up. Facebook is legitimized by its premium advertisers and these high-profile pullouts are going to hurt them badly. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the beginning of the end for them.

tl;dr: BRB, making popcorn.
posted by suetanvil at 12:58 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Facebook and Twitter stocks dive as Unilever halts advertising

That's great and I hope it leads to positive change. I guess my concern is that the regulatory vacuum we have basically leaves regulation of commercial speech up to private hands, and that just as easily goes the other way (Citizens United being a good, recent example). At least when the government sets up and enforces laws, it is a publicly accountable entity.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:07 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]






Except the photo is from 2016, the vandals weren't BLM-affiliated, and it was debunked by a fact-checker weeks ago.

This example seems to clearly shine light on the problem. If this was published on the website of any newspaper of established record, that paper would be the target of a class action lawsuit by protesters. As it should be.

But Facebook walks away freely, despite publishing this as a factual account — not as any harmless intermediary, but as — in fact — directly reporting this information as a truthful record of what occurred.

If we want to go back to original premise of this post, go back to climate change: It is a known, man-made phenomenon that a Facebook employee — someone the company hired and paid a salary to — reported falsely about.

For whatever reasons, it doesn't matter.

The point here is that they are no intermediate source of information. They are a media entity that does reporting — even if those reports are derived from a human being or an algorithm — but the rule of law is not applied to them.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:38 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


If this was published on the website of any newspaper of established record, that paper would be the target of a class action lawsuit by protesters.

I'm not sure protestors could sue-- what would be the grounds for the lawsuit? Civil defamation and libel appear to require that you be personally identifiable, I don't think you could sue on the grounds that unspecified "BLM protestors" had been defamed.

Likewise with climate change: it's unclear who would actually have any standing to sue for Facebook publishing scientifically wrong information unless statements were incorrectly attributed to a specific person or organization.
posted by Pyry at 4:29 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Sean Hannity says things with even less connection with the truth on a nightly basis, yet nobody has the faintest chance of winning a lawsuit over it. Proving actual malice is very hard, which is a good thing if you like newspapers (or individuals on Twitter, for that matter) to be able to cover/discuss public corruption, people being racist shit heels, etc.

Indeed, my local state's attorney threatened one Twitter user this week with campaign finance violation charges for making a video pointing out her long record of letting cops get away with murder. (Her opponent, who previously worked for the ACLU has been pushing a the same message) I somehow doubt his tweets would still be available if she was also able to credibly threaten Twitter as well.
posted by wierdo at 7:24 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Likewise with climate change: it's unclear who would actually have any standing to sue for Facebook publishing scientifically wrong information unless statements were incorrectly attributed to a specific person or organization.

If Facebook had to account for the verity of what it publishes, I suspect there could be precedent for people to sue them. Challenges could come from within — shareholders — or without — the public. As examples, there was a class action lawsuit against the United States government for conspiring to destroy the environment, with a long series of legal successes. The state of New York sued Exxon Mobil for deceiving shareholders about how Exxon did its accounting, when costing out effects of the climate crisis.

The plaintiffs in Juliana v. US have to appeal a case that even judges said they should have won. NY lost its case, and the judge remarked that Exxon could still be held responsible for climate change damage on the basis of other, non-finance-related laws.

So it wouldn't be easy, sure. Zuckerberg is wealthy and politically connected to an administration with a corrupt Justice Department. But it isn't like there aren't people already trying to hold powerful interests accountable, using laws already on the books.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:48 AM on June 27


More today from WaPo on how Facebook’s policies skewed the service toward right-wing propaganda:
Two months before Trump’s ”looting, shooting“ post, the Brazilian president posted about the country’s indigenous population, saying, “Indians are undoubtedly changing. They are increasingly becoming human beings just like us.” Thiel, the security engineer, and other employees argued internally that it violated the company’s internal guidelines against “dehumanizing speech.” They were referring to Zuckerberg’s own words while testifying before Congress in October in which he said dehumanizing speech “is the first step toward inciting” violence. In internal correspondence, Thiel was told that it didn’t qualify as racism — and may have even been a positive reference to integration. Thiel quit in disgust.
posted by sallybrown at 4:27 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


And of course this is yet another example of how Facebook as ref continues to get worked from the inside by right wing operatives like Joel Kaplan.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:18 AM on June 29


Okay, when even Reddit is on the side of the right it's making Facebook look really bad.

Reddit just banned the whole r/The_Donald subreddit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:05 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]


deadaluspark: "The entire purpose of a Facebook profile is to create a hyperreal version of yourself that you "sell" to others as the real version of yourself. It's an ad platform, top to bottom, the entire thing is based on how you want others to perceive you."

Facebook teaches you how to be a neoliberal agent”. An interview with Philip Mirowski

Scroll down to A10.

Mirowski can sound a bit like an old guy who doesn't get parts of teh Internet, but he's not wrong.
posted by sneebler at 3:11 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


You have the privilege (and yes, being in a place where you can walk away from one of the largest social fora in the world with little negative personal impact is very much a form of privilege) to walk away - but what of those who don't, many of whom are members of vulnerable groups?

If you are in a vulnerable group, how does being an active member of a group that tracks and markets the tracked info helpful in keeping one not-vulnerable?

The guy in charge has stated about trusting him - you are a dumb fuck for doing that.

phonique and right-wing looking with fake account

To try and tie you to others Facebook shows "people you may know" thus showing that profile to the people you were looking at. One of those could have flagged you.

Based on what I know from the past you are less likely to get deleted if your fake person is doing ad buys for a "page" thus you need to also have fake pages with your fake person. Getting money to them and not trip up on "know your customer" banking rules is a challenge but they will accept money from something that does not match the fake name.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:14 PM on July 1


Facebook admits that Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire is breaking their rules, but won’t take action beyond a mild warning.
posted by sallybrown at 10:37 AM on July 2


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