Over the past 24 hours there has been two leaks of Facebook’s internal rulebook used to moderate the posts of it’s 2 billion users. The Guardian has an excellent video highlighting some of these rules with examples from the actual rulebook.
This leak is an opportunity to have an important conversation and bring it to a broader audience.
In centuries gone by, across most of Western society, the church had the power. They determined the rules. What is acceptable behaviour? What is acceptable to talk about? Who should be supported in our community? Who should be demonised? With little separation of Church and State, these were the rules of law.
As the churches power decreased and governments became increasingly independent, the power to set the boundaries of public discourse has fallen on elected members of parliament. This has enabled passionate people putting time and energy into standing up for what they believe is fair and just. In many countries this has led to clear laws around hate speech and discrimination in its many forms.
In the pre-Internet era, behaviour that would be widely condemned had limited opportunity to spread. A minority group vocalising hate speech is localised and can be dealt with appropriately by local authorities and community standards.
With the advent of social media, those minority groups suddenly become empowered. They can find each other globally to become more co-ordinated. The spread of content that goes “viral” online allows them to appear more prevalent than they really are. The lack of fact checking allows “fake news” to spread rapidly and have their desired effect without consequences. Not only that, but individuals can hide behind anonymity to behave in ways they would not do in person.
In addition, the power and influence of social media advertising is breathtaking. Leveraging big data, profiles and persona research, there are legitimate claims that Cambridge Analytica helped the Brexit vote and Trump unexpectedly get over the line.
He who controls the people, has the true power.
Facebook has the strings to control the people. Facebook is now more powerful than governments.
Facebook’s power spans across countries and their moderation decisions determine what is acceptable conversation and behaviour in our modern society.
Facebook is the new religion.
There have been claims for Facebook to “fix” their moderation. This oversimplification ignores the fact we have no consensus on what “fixed” looks like.
As in every other time in history, there’s only one way to deal with this. People need to collectively stand up and fight hard for what is fair and just.
It’s up to us, both globally and collectively to establish these guidelines and ensure governments enforce them across all social networks.
Are we up for the challenge? How do we take control of this process?
A globally, public and inclusive process? That will be true power.
PS: Much of the argument above could equally by applied to Twitter – but Facebook is the gorilla in the room
Here are the other leaks: