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Although social media platforms are finally up and running Donald Trump after he instigated a deadly riot at the US Capitol, this was not the first time he crossed the line. Facebook throughout most of Trump’s presidency tolerated incendiary rhetoric about opponents and world leaders, brazen bigotry and conspiracy theories because the company believed it “Newsworthy”. Facebook admitted that such content could be ugly or even dangerous, but if posted by the US President, it was allowed if “the public interest in viewing it outweighs the risk of harm.” This approach has effectively become a complete exception for Trump and other government officials.
“I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or news in a democracy,” Mark Zuckerberg said in a 2019 speech at Georgetown University.
Now, however, the tech giant seems to have rethought its mind – for the most part. Facebook plans to end its widespread rejection of politicians by forcing leaders in the United States and around the world to adhere to the same content standards as other users. Like facets notedthe coming policy shift is a significant departure from the company’s typical “hands-off” approach and could have serious implications for the way public figures use the platform. Trump and other far-rightists in the U.S. and abroad have long used the platform to spread hatred and misinformation… The platform has even been used as a tool for genocide… But under the new approach, politicians and other public figures previously defended by the information value exception will primarily obey the same rules as everyone else.
The shift comes after Facebook’s “Supreme Court”, Facebook’s quasi-independent body set up in 2020 to review company decisions, in May. concluded that the company has the power to suspend Trump’s account after the January 6 uprising. However, the Supervisory Board criticized Facebook leaders for their lack of transparency in decision making and ordered them to disclose how they handle government officials’ content. “Facebook can’t make rules on the fly,” the board wrote last month, adding that “the informational value of a public figure’s comments should never take precedence over urgent harm prevention measures.” The board gave Facebook six months to decide whether Trump would be allowed to return to the platform, and until June 5 to implement its policy recommendations.
While Facebook’s new plan basically forces politicians to adhere to content moderation rules, there is one catch: it does not completely remove its “information value” exclusion. The company will reportedly continue to allow certain content to be retained from politicians, even if it is harmful, if it decides it is in the public interest to do so. Facebook will be more transparent in disclosing when it applies an exception to a post. in accordance with reports… But it’s possible that leaving room for exceptions, even if Facebook drops its general protections for politicians, could perpetuate some of the same problems. Facebook will continue to draw a line between what is noteworthy and what is not.
However, the new plan is one of the company’s biggest steps towards curbing hate speech and misinformation that has been circulating on the platform for years, and is helping to formalize the decision-making process that the Oversight Board previously described as “arbitrary”.
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