The question for me is this: Does Facebook provide anywhere near the social value to justify what this man suffered? Does it provide enough value to justify the suffering of the likely thousands of workers who Facebook employees to protect us from Facebook?
As you reflect on this, you probably want to check out The Facebook Files, an ongoing investigative series from the Wall Street Journal (articles are paywalled, but the related podcasts are free and worth your time and attention).
Plainly put, Facebook profits from hate and misery. Further reads:
- “People are more anti-vaccine if they get their COVID news from Facebook than from Fox News, data shows”
- “Social media platforms are failing to monitor anti-Semitism, two reports say.”
- Failure to Protect: How Tech Giants Fail to Act on User Reports of Antisemtism
- This report notes that, of the posts reported to them as anti-Jewish Facebook acted on less than 11%. By contrast, Facebook claims to proactively remove +90% of child porn without anyone (outside of FB mods) ever having to see it, let alone report it. The second problem—moderating images of abuse—is a lot harder than setting up a grep to flag specific hate terms (let alone having a moderator check a user-reported post to see what it says). And yet FB gladly pours the resources needed to do the harder thing. Why? Because, broadly speaking, the world abhors the abuse of children—and thus advertisers find it toxic. It hits their profit center, and so they act. (I leave it as an exercise for you, in your quiet hours, to consider why it is that the world doesn’t abhor Jew hatred. I assume it’s because they believe that we often have it coming.)
Brass tacks question: Given what social media companies like FB can and will do, in terms of exerting editorial control when it is in their interest to do so, I’m left wondering if they really deserve Section 230 protection?
FB, of course, is far from unique here—or, maybe, is uniquely awful only in the magnitude and clarity of their disfunction and viciousness. For a Twitter-centric rumination on the fundamental design aspects of social media that are making it so damaging to both individual humans and larger human societies, please read Noah Smith’s rational (and, in the case of the later, research-backed) articles “The Shouting Class” and “The Shouting Class 2: Last Refuge of Scoundrels”:
“In other words, society has always had about the same number of shouty jerks. But with the rise of social media, we have moved our society’s political discussions from spaces in which the shouty jerks were at least somewhat marginalized and contained to spaces that preferentially amplify their voices.…In pursuit of personal glory, bad people turn neighbor against neighbor.”Noah Smith in “The Shouting Class 2: Last Refuge of Scoundrels”