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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Facebook’s fight for freedom of speech

Mark+Zuckerburg
Photo by Creative Commons
Mark Zuckerburg

Facebook is a reputable social giant that sustains a massive influence on millions of active users. Despite new social media platforms gaining attraction, Facebook continues to be the most popular media site. According to recent statistics, 2.45 billion active users were documented in September, with 1.63 billion of those users logging on every day.
Facebook has been forced to confront accusations of propagating fake news and candidly admits to displaying unfiltered ads throughout the platform. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, counters the concerns of fake news by vehemently emphasizing the importance of  freedom of speech. In an address at Georgetown University, Zuckerberg argues, “If another nation’s platforms set the rules, our nation’s discourse could be set by a completely different set of values.” To illustrate his argument, Zuckerberg establishes the European Court of Justice as a paradigm for this phenomenon. The European Court of Justice declared they can force Facebook to delete content that is perceived objectionable in individual European countries. The act of censorship now transcends beyond one nation’s borders and enters into a global field of media manipulation. Facebook has two controversial battles: the mass concern over unregulated political ads and combating censorship policies gaining endorsement.
Facebook has grappled with troublesome cases concerning regulation policies in recent years. One of the most infamous accounts is a fake Black Lives Matter page run by a white Australian man who hoped to profit by exploiting the movement. More recently, the intense feud between Zuckerberg and Elizabeth Warren amplified as Warren publicly accused Facebook of “taking money to promote lies.” Interestingly, Warren strategically purchased an ad on Facebook saying the company endorsed Trump for reelection. Her goal was to demonstrate the effect of propagating falsehoods throughout a popular network and to galvanize the company into amending its allegedly outdated policy. The question is, should the social network serve as an arbiter of truth or as a platform of unrefined discourse? Would implementing stricter regulation policies infringe on First Amendment Rights?
In response to concerns over Facebook’s regulatory practices, Zuckerberg has established an oversight board. Facebook’s “Supreme Court” theoretically will review ads objectively, independent of Zuckerberg and Facebook employees’ input. The board will be composed of members whose mission is to execute “neutral, independent judgement and render decisions impartially.” Ultimately, upon the Board’s instruction, Facebook will be required to remove content on the platform that violates policy guidelines. The fundamental purpose of establishing an accountability measure is to minimize accusations of political bias from Zuckerberg and Facebook employees. Principally, the Board serves as a medium between objective judgment while still maintaining a reputation of open dialogue.
Facebook is in a public battle of conserving an open platform while politicians like Warren desire to confine and break up large companies. Moreover, an unregulated network contains both positive and negative consequences. Zuckerberg conveys a convincing argument to minimize regulation in his statement: “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. Banning political ads favors incumbents and whoever the media covers.” Zuckerberg argues that an open network will enable smaller groups or individuals to have a voice that carries the weight of those with a higher status.
On the other hand, opposers of Facebook have combated against his statements. For instance, Rashad Robinson, the president of digital anti-hate group Color Of Change, believes the platform undermines democracy and perpetuates hateful rhetoric. The public outcry is rooted in an understandable concern. Zuckerberg has enacted a solution that will serve as a “checks and balances” for the large company without eliminating the platform’s roots in open dialogue.  Rather than succumbing to a method of silence, such as Twitter removing all political ads from the platform, Zuckerberg is seeking a way for people to have a voice.

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