Islamism and Facebook's Existential Crisis
Although I am not going to give formal engineering or quality management consulting advice in an opinion column, I do remember a seminar on ISO 9001:2015's new provision for "Actions to address risks and opportunities" that warned how social networking can demolish a business' reputation in days or even hours. I saw this in action when a department store, which I will not name because it was falsely accused in a news article (a credible source as opposed to "somebody's blog") of removing Israeli goods from its shelves. The store's Facebook page was instantly flooded with negative posts and negative ratings, but the news source later retracted the accusation.
On the other hand, when the American Anthropological Association approved a vote on an academic boycott of Israel, its own rating declined rapidly and deservedly from close to 5 stars (A or A+) to about 2.5 (D+ to C-). Even if its members have the good sense to reject a resolution that might (not legal advice) jeopardize the organization's 501(c)(3) tax exemption, the damage has already been done.
Mark Zuckerberg needs to be aware that recent events have similarly created a serious public relations crisis for the company he helped found in 2007. The issue is the same kind of exercise of editorial control that relegated MoveOn.org to the lunatic fringe in 2006, and should have destroyed Barack Obama's candidacy in 2008.
Exercise of Editorial Control
"Exercise of editorial control" over the contents of MoveOn.org's now-defunct Action Forum, My.BarackObama.com, and Facebook takes place when moderators decide systematically and routinely what is and is not acceptable for posting under the networking site's community standards. "Systematically and routinely" does not apply to occasional and incidental policing of a Disqus or WordPress forum, such as those found at American Thinker and Pamelageller.com. The latter includes the following disclaimer, and note especially the word "unmoderated."
Comments at Atlas Shrugs are unmoderated. Posts using foul language, as well as abusive, hateful, libelous and genocidal posts, will be deleted if seen. However, if a comment remains on the site, it in no way constitutes an endorsement by Pamela Geller of the sentiments contained therein.
In addition, Disqus is itself an unmoderated third-party service, and it is not reasonable to expect the owner of a blog to read much less moderate all the comments. Compare this, however, to the practices at MoveOn.org, My.BarackObama.com, and Facebook, all of which use or used their own platforms rather than a service like Disqus or WordPress.
- The FAQ page for the MoveOn.org Action Forum said explicitly, "How can I make sure someone at MoveOn reads my post? All comments are read at least twice. ...Just what does your moderator do? Our moderators are better described as monitors. They spend the vast majority of their time looking for comments to pass on to the MoveOn team and doing weekly forum summaries." While the page added a disclaimer that the moderators' job was not to remove all inappropriate content, it proved nonetheless that MoveOn.org lied about not knowing about the hate speech that its members not only posted but also voted to approve overwhelmingly.
- As shown below, the Obama Campaign was quick to delete material and accounts its moderators deemed inappropriate, while one moderator herself counseled participants to use the phrase "Israel Lobby." The campaign also posted endorsements from Jeremiah "God Damn America" Wright and Michael Pfleger, and removed them only when they became controversial.
- Facebook has a set of community standards, as well as a reporting mechanism for postings that violate those standards.
The instant the moderators exercise systematic editorial control, the organization accepts responsibility for all content it allows to remain. Facebook just crossed this line when it deleted Michael Savage's post of a picture of Islamists threatening to behead anybody who insults Islam.
Here are the specifics. Facebook deleted the following image, which Savage posted in an obviously condemnatory context, because it violated Facebook's community standards.
This means that Facebook sanctioned content such as a "Death to Israel" community that was proven to have been reported to Facebook (and see also another example). A Palestinian was, in fact, jailed in Israel for posting a Death to Israel page that incited violence.
If Facebook's deletion of Michael Savage's posting is evidence of Mark Zuckerberg's compliance with Angela Merkel's request that he censor criticism of militant "Islam," then Zuckerberg needs some serious counseling. Zuckerberg is a young man whose technical skills made him a billionaire when he was barely out of college, and perhaps an impressionable young man who feels even more important when the Chancellor of Germany speaks to him personally.
Now for the wakeup call. "Mark, if your compliance with Merkel's request loses advertisers, viewers, and revenue, don't expect Merkel to so much as take your phone call let alone ask German taxpayers to compensate you for the damage. You and your business' reputation are expendable, just as her own people seem expendable given her immigration policies. You are in roughly the position of a young and impressionable Palestinian whose elders tell him that he will get 72 virgins if he blows himself up for the Cause, and who doesn't notice that none of those elders ever seem to be in a hurry themselves. Don't strap on the suicide belt that Chancellor Merkel just handed you, and blow up the phenomenal success that you and your friends created."
There is also the adage that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it, and the Christmas season is the right time for Mr. Zuckerberg to receive some visits from the ghosts of organizations past.
The Ghost of MoveOn.org
In 2006, Jan Poller, Mark Goldberg, and I exposed MoveOn.org's Action Forum for approving hate speech against Jews, Catholics, Evangelical Christians, and others while deleting postings critical of Palestinians and also the prominent racist and anti-Semite Al Sharpton. Not only did the moderators delete my posts and block me from posting anything else, the FAQ page said that the moderators read every posting twice. The latter proved that MoveOn lied about not knowing about the hate speech, and my recovery of literally dozens of examples afterward proved that MoveOn lied about removing it.
The E-mail that Mr. Poller sent to MoveOn.org (Eli Pariser, did you know that E-mail with full headers is probably as good as certified U.S. mail for proof that something was sent to you?) in 2004 proves further that MoveOn.org knew about the hate speech but chose to welcome it anyway. There is a huge difference between not monitoring a Disqus or WordPress discussion forum that you have no legal or moral duty to monitor, and failing to act on hate speech that is brought explicitly to your attention when you claim the right to delete material you deem offensive. Note also that the other Action Forum participants were not only fully aware of the hate speech, they voted to approve it (similar to ^ in Disqus and "Like" in Facebook).
The hate speech, which I still have on file, includes the following. These are but a handful of examples.
- "…maybe they should be forced to wear an Israeli flag on the lapel of their jackets. Isn't it time to tell the American people the truth, i.e. that Jews control all the media. (August 17, 2006)." 8/8 (eight out of the eight people who voted up or down on this statement) agreed with it.
- "Why are the Jews so Jew-y?" 29/30 voted to agree.
- "Israel is guilty of war crimes in their cowardely [sic] attack on Lebanon and the whining, arrogant Jew [Tom Lantos] wants Lebanon to demonstrate responsibility ! This is another example of how many Jews/Zioniosts in our Congress use the U.S. for their own greedy purposes." 14/17 MoveOn people agreed.
- "In this text [Talmud], Jews are commanded to slaughter non-Jews who are viewed more or less as animals or at least lesser human beings." 10/13 MoveOn members agreed.
- "For Blacks to receive the discipline basically the military have to offer, and minorities are so much in need, I would suggest that they recruit Blacks, keep them in safe positions state side and not allow them a weapon, because they may use it against those they perceive to be their enemy." 10/13 MoveOn people agreed that African-American Soldiers are potential mutineers who cannot be trusted with weapons.
As stated by the White Witch of Narnia--she was the villain, but you have to admit that she got results--"Not one stone of your city will be left. I will make it as Charn, as Felinda, as Sorlois, as Bramandin." The cities in question were C.S. Lewis' fictional counterparts of places like Carthage, Magdeburg, Dresden, and Hiroshima, and this is pretty much what happened to MoveOn.org. Its remnants still exist, but they play no significant role in today's political scene.
How Obama 2008 Could Have Been Ghosted
Richard Riddick as played by Vin Diesel introduced "ghost" as a verb, as in "to ghost [kill] somebody." The Republican Party's failure to exploit the Obama Campaign's approval of mostly anti-Semitic but also other forms of hate speech underscores the fact that acts of omission, i.e. what we fail to do right, are more dangerous than acts of commission, or what we do wrong. Here are but a few examples of the material that Organizing for America's moderators approved for posting. The first is one of Obama's moderators counseling somebody who used the phrase "Jewish Lobby" to use "Israel Lobby" instead.
The second speaks for itself, another uses a four-letter word that starts with a K to describe Jews, and yet another uses the N-word to describe African-American Clinton supporters.
If the Republican Party had advertised this material, all of which appeared under Obama's campaign logo, President McCain would probably now be finishing his second term. The Obama Campaign would of course have protested that it didn't know, and that anybody can post anything, blah blah blah except Emily herself provided proof of exercise of editorial control as follows.
From: email@example.com on behalf of firstname.lastname@example.org (email@example.com)
Add contact Add contact
Sent: Fri 6/27/08 5:41 PM
To: [our E-mail address]
Thank you for your involvement on My.BarackObama and the countless hours you have dedicated to this campaign. Unfortunately, we were forced to deactivate your account after you abused our blog tool. We regret having had to resort to this action.
Thank you for your understanding.
Obama for America
This was, by the way, in response to my posting of racist quotes, with page numbers, from Barack Obama's own Dreams From My Father. Even though Obama is not facing election next year, by the way, Republicans should nonetheless circulate these images to embarrass the Democrats sufficiently to ensure a landslide not only for the Presidency, but for the Senate and House positions as well.
The Ghost of Facebook's Future?
Now we get to the truly terrifying ghost in Charles Dickens' story. Other Facebook users have complained that Facebook has deleted their postings and blocked them from posting because their postings offended somebody, but they have never presented proof in the form of screenshots of messages to this effect from Facebook. Michael Savage's complaint must, however, be treated as factual. He cannot falsely accuse Facebook of censorship because (1) he would destroy his own journalistic credibility and (2) Facebook could conceivably sue him for defamation. This means Facebook must act quickly to repair the damage, and make sure it never happens again.
In addition, thousands of Israelis have filed a lawsuit against Facebook for allowing Palestinians to use it as a platform for incitement of violence and even planning of terrorist attacks. While I cannot give legal advice, Facebook's enforcement of what it deems to be community standards makes it 100 percent responsible for violent material it fails to remove, especially when it is a matter of record that it was notified.
The safest way to run an online discussion forum is to have no moderators and no "community standards" whatsoever because the organization cannot then be held responsible for what people say or do. This does not mean there would be no rules, but rather that the few rules would be simple, easily understood, and also self-enforcing in terms of consequences for violators.
- Every posting is time-stamped and accompanied by the IP address from which it originated along with the abuse reporting address for the Internet service provider in question.
- Any user can report spam to the offender's Internet service provider. Criminal communications such as physical threats, Internet scams, child pornography, and offers to sell illegal drugs (DEA for controlled substances, here for illegal online pharmacies) can be reported to law enforcement and regulatory agencies. Claims of copyright infringement can be pursued against the user of the IP address involved.
- If you find another user's posts offensive, you can create your own "safe space" by blocking him so neither of you can see one another's postings, timelines, or profiles.
Editorial control, on the other hand, equals responsibility and accountability, and MoveOn.org's experience shows that responsibility of this nature is a liability.
William A. Levinson, P.E., is the author of several books on business management including content on organizational psychology, as well as manufacturing productivity and quality.