The white picket fence


Newspapers appear to be safe from such action by the Zuckerberg censorship machine as the service actively courts journalism and the United States enjoys a robust free press. It is not hard to imagine a situation where Facebook chooses to manipulate its EdgeRank system to hide news articles unflattering of the company, its staff, or that it finds otherwise displeasing. Facebook could take retaliatory action such as throttling against users who “like” a displeasing news organization, the white picket fence only projects a positive image, it does not necessarily take actions reflecting that image.

Facebook has already demonstrated a willingness to take down content it deems displeasing. An op-ed originally published in The Huffington Post by Michael Zimmer which appears on his website highlights many of the problems when Facebook has control over what information is displayed. In response to Facebook taking down a promotional image from a British soap opera where two men kiss in a photo, Zimmer wrote that the process appears to be monitored by a real person for each individual photo.

One of the problems Zimmer notes is that each individual monitoring the network, and each individual on the network has their own standards for what violates Facebook’s terms. Zimmer wrote:

If we assume that a human is indeed deciding what is “sexually suggestive” and removing photos based on his/her judgement, who is this person (or team of people), and what standards are being used?

This problem extends beyond what is considered “sexually suggestive” and extends to politically unpalatable and violence. A better known instance of Facebook censorship is the company’s removal of a page entitled “Third Palestinian Intifada.”

Reports of the page’s take down from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz claim that prior to being removed the page had more than 340,000 fans and that an Israeli Cabinet minister personally contacted Zuckerberg to ask that the page be removed.

Violence aimed against any religious, ethnic, or political group is bad and should be condemned, but either Facebook is a site devoted to connecting the world and enabling sharing as Zuckerberg claims is his goal, or it is a closed communication environment where only approved content is shared.

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