The secret to achieving accountability for Facebook's and Twitter's censorship
Facebook continues to reinforce the perception of its content moderators as pre-adolescents, and I mean in terms of character and maturity regardless of age, who are unable to handle authority responsibly. These moderators come across to me as using their authority to advance their personal political agendas and biases rather than enforce what the social media platform calls its "community standards." Here is the feedback that Hillel Neuer's U.N. Watch got for a post that is obviously condemnatory of the Taliban, and that added that one would not see Ben & Jerry's boycott this organization. "Your page is at risk of being unpublished ... due to continued community standards violations."
A look at the purported violation tells us immediately that there are only two credible, at least to me, explanations for the moderator's behavior. The first is that the moderator is a Taliban sympathizer who took personal offense at Mr. Neuer's depiction of the Taliban in a clearly negative context. The second is that the moderator supports the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement to which Ben & Jerry's made itself a party. The moderator's explanation was that the post violated a policy against "dangerous individuals," but this is not credible because the post condemns rather than promotes the dangerous individuals in question. Does Facebook now have a policy against denunciation of the Taliban, Hamas, al-Qaeda, violent white supremacist organizations, and so on?
I also wondered whether Facebook was censoring derogatory material about Ben & Jerry's because the company is an advertiser, but it is not. Facebook needs to take a rapid, and hard, look at what this moderator's conduct has done to its brand.
Moderated Social Media? You Keep What You Don't Delete.
"You keep what you don't delete" means that the instant a social media platform takes it upon itself to issue warnings, suspend people's accounts, block them from posting, or remove their posts, it owns whatever it does not delete. Facebook and Twitter both banned Donald Trump from their platforms, so they are now morally responsible for whatever hate speech they don't delete. Facebook's action against Mr. Neuer reinforces this even further; Mark Zuckerberg now owns, as I see it, every single piece of hate speech that he permits to reside (such as "Mossad put the explosives here," with "here" referring to the Twin Towers), or permitted to reside (Jewish Ritual Murder), under his roof. He and those who work for him have (1) proven, e.g. with their latest action against Mr. Neuer, that they have the power to remove this material and terminate the users' accounts, but (2) have not done so as demonstrated by its continued presence.
Wir haben nicht gewusst? Nein.
Facebook cannot claim, "Wir haben nicht gewusst" ("we did not know"), either. It has certainly been more than diligent in finding and censoring content from Mr. Neuer, which means it is equally capable of finding and removing "Mossad put the explosives here" if it regards this kind of material as problematic. It is meanwhile a matter of record that Facebook knew about "Jewish Ritual Murder" and chose not to remove it until public outrage compelled it to do so.
MoveOn.org similarly censored content with which it did not agree but left online anti-Semitic content such as "Jew Lieberman" and also hate speech against Catholics and evangelical Christians. MoveOn claimed that it did not see the hate speech, but its FAQ page said moderators read everything that was posted at least twice. Oops. In addition, the very fact that it censored far less objectionable, but conservative rather than leftist, content showed that it had the ability to remove the hate speech but chose not to. You keep what you don't delete.
Donald Trump No, "Jewish Ritual Murder" Yes
Facebook tolerated a page called "Jewish Ritual Murder" and told those who complained about it that it did not violate Facebook's community standards. This page, along with TruthAboutJews on Twitter, was taken down only after a major public outcry.
"Jewish Ritual Murder's" background, as I recall, depicted black-coated Jews near black crows or ravens near German children and might well have come from Nazi propaganda of the 1930s. Here (item 4, "Dehumanization") is the image in question. "Taken from a children's book, this illustration compares Jews to ravens. Germany, 1936. Source: Montreal Holocaust Museum." This is what I recall seeing on Facebook, although it is not on the archived pages that are still available. Here are examples of the kind of commentary that did not violate what the pre-adolescents who appear to moderate Facebook call their community standards.
Facebook's moderators also seem to think this beauty meets community standards.
Facebook needs to take rapid action on the deletion of Hillel Neuer's denunciation of the Taliban and Ben & Jerry's, noting how the moderator's conduct affects Facebook's brand. Disciplinary counseling plus a letter of apology to Mr. Neuer seem appropriate. Perhaps Facebook should go even further by making clear that dismissal will be the consequence for the next moderator who does anything similar, but Facebook needs to do something.
The same goes for Twitter's toleration of tweets by Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren that falsely and therefore libelously accused an identifiable police officer of murder. While the Communications Decency Act shields Twitter (but not Harris or Warren) from legal action by the officer in question if it is not outside the statute of limitations, Twitter is nonetheless a moral albeit not legal accessory to libel under the reasonable doctrine "you keep what you don't delete."
Facebook's and Twitter's advertisers, meanwhile, need to take a hard look at the conduct their money supports, and I mean the conduct of content moderators who do not understand that authority comes with a responsibility to work by the rules rather than do whatever they want. If you moderate your users' content, then you keep what you don't delete. Facebook owned "Jewish Ritual Murder," and it still owns "Mossad put the explosives here," just as Twitter owned TruthAboutJews, which also included a racial slur about "darkies," and still owns the libelous content from Harris and Warren. That is all there is to it.
Civis Americanus is the pen name of a contributor who remembers the lessons of history and wants to ensure that our country never needs to learn those lessons again the hard way. The author is remaining anonymous due to the likely prospect of being subjected to "cancel culture" for exposing the Big Lie behind Black Lives Matter.
Image via Max Pixel.