This was one of the questions asked of Facebook employees in advance of a Mark Zuckerberg Q and A session in March; every week, the employees vote in an internal poll on what they want Facebook CEO Zuckerberg to talk about. This week, Zuckerberg openly criticized many of Donald Trump’s various blatherings during the keynote speech of the company’s annual F8 developer conference:
“I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as ‘others.” I hear them calling for blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, for reducing trade, and in some cases, even for cutting access to the internet.”
This is his right, as much as any pundit, rock singer or blogger. Zuckerberg’s political positions on anything shouldn’t have any more influence than those of the guy next to you at the sports bar, because nothing about Zuckerberg indicates that he has any more expertise about national policy than Donald Trump.
Ethically, every American has an individual ethical responsibility to prevent Donald Trump from becoming President, which means that everybody has a responsibility to keep him from being nominated. Do ponder that when you hear some of the worst of the Democrats and progressive biased journalists claiming that Trump cannot be fairly and democratically be denied the Republican nomination. They are either fools who assume that Hillary Clinton, who has proven herself capable of beating herself in any race, will waltz to the White House over Trump no matter what occurs in the chaotic future to come, or despicable Machiavellians who would knowingly roll the dice with the future of the country and the culture just to raise the odds of a Clinton presidency, itself a horrible prospect.
Facebook, however, is a communications medium that facilitates conversation, organization and the distribution of information among users. It does so under the illusion that users are in control of the process, but of course it is Facebook puling the strings. Facebook could definitely manipulate its service to undermine Trump. Gizmodo notes…
“With Facebook, we don’t know what we’re not seeing. We don’t know what the bias is or how that might be affecting how we see the world. Facebook has toyed with skewing news in the past…. If Facebook decided to, it could gradually remove any pro-Trump stories or media off its site—devastating for a campaign that runs on memes and publicity. Facebook wouldn’t have to disclose it was doing this, and would be protected by the First Amendment.”
Facebook could go farther. Twitter has been censoring various conservative users, and Facebook could do the same by making sure that pro-Trump posts get seen by “friends” with less frequency than Trump-bashing posts. Gizmodo again:
[I]f Facebook decides to tamper with its algorithm—altering what we see—it’s akin to an editor deciding what to run big with on the front page, or what to take a stand on. The difference is that readers of traditional media (including the web) can educate themselves about a media company’s political leanings. Media outlets often publish op-eds and editorials, and have a history of how they treat particular stories. Not to mention that Facebook has the potential to reach vastly, vastly more readers than any given publication.
More than 1.04 billion people use Facebook, and Facebook has no legal obligation to let information and opinion travel among its users without the corporation secretly or openly manipulate what ideas get the most exposure.
Pressed by other news sources, Facebook addressed the issue by saying…
“Voting is a core value of democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution we can make to the community. We encourage any and all candidates, groups, and voters to use our platform to share their views on the election and debate the issues. We as a company are neutral – we have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote.”
That’s the right answer.