Facebook and a Politician’s Right to Free Speech
How should FB weigh government and public interest when deciding whether or not ban or fact-check political ads? What criteria should it use in its evaluation? (please talk about both business interests and public interests detailed)
As Facebook (FB) has 223.03 million US users as of today (12/14/2020), and as it is the primary news source—including Instagram, which Facebook owns—for 64% of its users, it has a moral obligation (termed “Corporate Responsibility”—”… a family of professional disciplines intended to help a corporation stay competitive by maintaining accountability to its four main stakeholder groups: customers, employees, shareholders, and communities.”) to ensure its representation of any entity responsible in any way for the public good is one hundred percent honest, real, and true.
Which criteria then should Facebook use to inform whether or not each advertisement—which in any way—affects the public good? To answer this question perhaps the best place to start is to briefly examine the root of modern Western democracy, the French Revolution: and how its instantiation was manipulated—namely by agents provocateurs (APs) (“(French for “inciting agent”) is a person who commits or who acts to entice another person to commit an illegal or rash act or falsely implicate them in partaking in an illegal act, so as to ruin the reputation or entice legal action against the target or a group they belong to or are perceived to belong to. They may target any group, such as a peaceful protest or demonstration, a union, a political party or a company.”).
America’s FBI has its own APs which it employs for the common good; whereas Russia’s GRU agency actively used Facebook (as well as Instagram and Twitter) against it, to successfully install the Trump administration. So now we clearly see how important social media is in forming the literal fabric of American society, what further insight may be gleaned from assignment 2 as to which specific criteria should be used in fact-checking public influencing political ads?
Unlike Twitter—which in Oct ’19 banned all political ads; most likely as a response to the aforementioned Russian election hacking—FB continues to allow its user preference algorithms to promote “sensational” political content, tailored to each user, based on what content they have previously most engaged with, much of this being “fake news”. Although in response FB has created “independent fact checkers certified by the nonpartisan International Fact-Checking Network to assess posts, ads, articles, and videos” it faces the problem of having too little personnel bandwidth to accurately fact check such frequent and vast content creation.
Who should bear the burden of regulating political speech? What should that commitment look like and how might it impact FB operations and revenue? (please list the pros and cons for 1. Ban posts and advertisements from politicians, 2. fact-check posts and advertisements from politicians 3. Do not fact check posts and advertisements from politicians)
Should FB put itself in a position to be the arbiter of truth for political speech? How would this position impact its core business operations?
FB is faced with the unforeseen moral dilemma its algorithms—which, from the psychological perspective, target dopamine—have created; but still bears the responsibility for how they affect the public’s mien. Yes, it should fact check posts and advertising submitted by any and all people, politicians, companies, and political parties who are responsible for the wellbeing of society: any and all influencers. As to how this will affect its operations and revenue: in terms of economics, for the short run it may result in a lessening of advertising revenue due to the consequently reduced sensationalism and thus engagement of now-true ads, and the increased outlay for independent, verified fact checkers; but, in the long run, FB will increase its perceived—and real—authenticity and trust.
So if FB outright bans all politicians’ posts and advertisements, it is no longer connected to an important part of its users everyday lives: which would lessen its reach and relevance; if it fact checks all posts and ads by politicians it will increase its authenticity but marginally increase its financial outlay, at least in the short run; if it does not fact check politicians’ ads it absolves itself of any and all responsibility for shaping public opinion and public life and thereby drastically negatively impacts its long term trust factor—in the long run it will become increasingly irrelevant, exactly as Myspace did.
 Case 2—Policing Politics—Facebook and a Politician’s Right to Free Speech, Harvard Business Publishing