By Robert Laurie
If you have a news site on Facebook, you’d better hope it’s one that Mark Zuckerberg and his ant-army of moderators agree with. That’s because sites that cover current events – whether they’re opinion-based or comprised of hard news – have found themselves sent to the digital black hole if they don’t toe the Facebook-approved political line. Like most of Silicon Valley, Zuckerberg is a staunch leftist, and you that means right-leaning outlets are the enemy.
Facebook’s infamous “algorithm” has been suppressing speech, controlling what people see in their timelines, and filtering content almost since the site launched. In the last few months, though, the censorship has been ramped up to a fever-pitch. Conservative sites have noticed a steep (up to 80%) drop in traffic coming from Zuckerberg’s beast, and the company shows no signs of reversing course.
In fact, it’s just the opposite. According to comments made at the annual OTR (Off the Record) new media event, Zuckerberg intends to accelerate the effort to silence allegedly “untrustworthy” voices – by employing a likely-disastrous approach that combines AI with tens of thousands of human moderators.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday that the company has already begun to implement a system that ranks news organizations based on trustworthiness, and promotes or suppresses its content based on that metric.
Zuckerberg said the company has gathered data on how consumers perceive news brands by asking them to identify whether they have heard of various publications and if they trust them.
“We put [that data] into the system, and it is acting as a boost or a suppression, and we’re going to dial up the intensity of that over time,” he said. “We feel like we have a responsibility to further [break] down polarization and find common ground.”
That “common ground” bit is laughable, since we all know exactly how this will go. Zuckerberg’s politics are well documented, and if you think his “metric” won’t lean left, you haven’t been paying attention. This is nothing more than high-tech hackery designed to stifle speech.
But don’t tell Zuckerberg that. He doesn’t want to hear it. What he wants is to pretend he’s some kind of fiscal martyr.
Zuckerberg said the company will invest “billions” of dollars in a combination of artificial intelligence and tens of thousands of human moderators to keep both fake news and deliberate propaganda at bay, especially in elections.
“We’re essentially going to be losing money on doing political ads,” he said of the investment the company is making to avoid a repeat of the spread of Russian propaganda in the 2016 US election.
How very brave and altruistic. A man who has billions in the bank is telling you that his company – not him personally, mind you – will be forgoing a bit of money in a crusade to tell you the proper way to think. If you don’t see the potential problems here, you’re not looking very hard.
The AI is suspicious since you know who’s behind it. Does anyone seriously doubt that it will be programmed to favor a certain political viewpoint? Also, who will be selecting the “tens of thousands of moderators?” Why should we believe that this group will be anything other than an army of left-wing enforcers? What does “deliberate propaganda” mean? Will opinion sites face further attacks because they hewed to a certain set of beliefs?
We all know who Zuckerberg is, and we’ve already learned not to trust him. So why should we believe that this effort will turn out to be anything other than an extension of what he’s already done?