The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), regarded as one of the premier journalistic watchdog organizations in the country, expressed concern in a column this week over Facebook’s partnership with major news organizations. The arrangement, made between Facebook and several publications like Buzzfeed and The New York Times, will allow the organizations to post news directly to Facebook instead of via a shared link. While this will be a good thing for readership numbers, the CJR argues it will give Facebook far too much power to determine the news we read.
The column’s writer, Trevor Trimm, points out a variety of censorship situations that have occurred on the site, ranging from innocuous breastfeeding photos to obeying the censorship orders of repressive foreign governments. In one of the most insidious examples of what Facebook could do with its power, Trimm says the site could actively block information from reaching its billion-plus active user base.
“If the Washington Post posted its PRISM story about collusion between tech companies and the NSA directly on Facebook – a story that Facebook disputed – would its algorithms subtly suppress it?” he wrote. “Would a Facebook employee ever so gently suggest that maybe the Washington Post may want to think twice before publishing, given what’s at stake for their relationship?”
While Facebook may have good intentions for its users with this news sharing feature, it’s an awful lot of power for a site that has proven willing to remove content in the past.