Facebook’s content moderation rules can be confusing at best, leading to removals and censorship where action doesn’t seem necessary. What’s worse, the enforcement of these guidelines often feels arbitrary and unfair. And this week, Facebook pretty much confirmed that notion by saying that politicians are exempt from its speech rules that govern the rest of us.
According to the social media giant, politicians don’t have to follow its posting guidelines, except while running advertisements. Only if their content incites violence or hate will it be removed — a bar that seems absurdly high to clear.
“It’s not new that politicians say nasty things about each other — that wasn’t invented by Facebook,” Facebook head of global affairs Nick Clegg said. “What is new is that now they can reach people with far greater speed and at a far greater scale. That’s why we draw the line at any speech which can lead to real world violence and harm.”
In the same breath, Clegg wondered if Facebook should even have the power to police speech at all.
“Would it be acceptable to society at large to have a private company in effect become a self-appointed referee for everything that politicians say?” he continued. “I don’t believe it would be.”
It’s a valid point, but it’s far too late to re-consider the company’s role in our lives. Facebook wields tremendous power, whether it wants it or not, and now it must act responsibly to use it.
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