Little Rock While America burns, Trump inflames and divides, Facebook vacillates and postures. Mark Zuckerberg and his number two executive Sheryl Sandberg seem to have no moral compass at all.
Facebook once was a semi-harmless tool that enabled social networks of family and friends to easily connect and share news, pictures, and information. Those days are long gone. Now, Facebook is global financial behemoth with over one-billion users, still pretending it is a side pocket, dorm room experiment that bears no responsibility for the way members have used its tools.
Way back when, say 2016 or so in times gone by, Facebook could have been excused for being manipulated by state actors and nefarious, often genocidal interests whether Russia in the US election or the military in Myanmar. They weren’t ready for primetime, one might argue. They admitted as much, and said they would fix it all themselves. They lied. Now they know better, and the same problems remain. Substitute Hindu nationalists in India this time for Myanmar. Change the name of the country from the USA to a score of others.
Twitter, which I personally find almost a worthless, time suck, grew a backbone and its CEO and co-founder, Jack Dorsey, drew a small line recently and fact checked a couple of President Trump’s tweets as misleading and false. One was on mail ballots. And the other was divisive and inflammatory. Trump went ballistic, fearing his tweet fingers would be paralyzed. He threatened to remove the liability protection from social media in an executive order that is almost surely going to be declared unconstitutional. Twitter held firm that Trump had violated its rules of service. Snap, the owner of Snapchat, has now followed suit.
Facebook has almost identical rules for users that these other platforms have, so what did they do. In short, nothing. Zuckerberg claimed it was news. Yes, so is genocide, but does that excuse being an enabler? Zuckerberg claimed it was free speech. What public school did he ever attend that he didn’t hear the classic definition that free speech does not mean that someone has the right to scream “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater or be exonerated in the deaths of any trampled as the crowd crushes towards the exit door?
These pathetic arguments by Zuckerberg and Sandberg are not “he say, she say” things where there are grounds for misinterpretation. An “all hands” phone conference audited by the New York Times left no doubt. Facebook workers protested. Civil and human rights organizations have fiercely criticized the company and its leaders, especially for allowing Trump to continue to foment division and hate during the George Floyd protests.
As the country and the world burn, Facebook’s leaders seem to believe their role is handing out matches. The company and its leadership have no moral compass. True north only points to their bank accounts and stock holdings.
The only good news here is that they seem to be proving categorically that they should be liable for the harm they cause. Their inability to understand even the simplest issues of right and wrong, hate and love, justice and injustice, demands that they – and other social networks – must be regulated in the next administration.