On the front page of Thursday’s New York Times, technology reporter Mike Isaac pushed a just-completed “civil rights” audit of Facebook: “Facebook Lets Hate Flourish, Report Finds.”
No one wants “hate” to flourish online. But that headline actually sneakily translates into a complaint that Facebook is not sufficiently censoring Trump and his supporters in the run-up to November.
The audit, conducted by left-wing groups the Times flattered with the label “civil rights groups,” slammed Facebook’s choice to leave untouched several posts made by President Trump in May, which the audit claimed were examples of "hateful and violent speech." Also, Trump’s posts somehow endangered users' civil rights?
Auditors handpicked by Facebook to examine its policies said that the company had not done enough to protect people on the platform from discriminatory posts and ads and that its decisions to leave up President Trump’s inflammatory posts were “significant setbacks for civil rights.”
The 89-page audit put Facebook in an awkward position as the presidential campaign heats up. The report gave fuel to the company’s detractors, who said the site had allowed hate speech and misinformation to flourish. The audit also placed the social network in the spotlight for an issue it had worked hard to avoid since the 2016 election: That it may once again be negatively influencing American voters.
The paper has been trying to put Facebook in an “awkward position” until it joins the rest of the social media giants in wholly trying to cripple Trump’s re-election campaign. It's clear the audit isn’t an evenhanded critique, but an anti-Trump broadside.
Now Facebook has to decide whether its approach to hateful speech and noxious content -- which was to leave it alone in the name of free expression -- remains tenable....
In the audit, Facebook was repeatedly faulted for prioritizing free expression on its platform over nondiscrimination, and for not having a robust infrastructure to handle civil rights. The report homed in on three posts by Mr. Trump in May, which the audit said contained hateful and violent speech or which harmed voters. Facebook left those posts untouched, over objections by the auditors, the report said.
The journalists wholly missed the irony of a company being criticized for being overly in favor of free expression.
The Silicon Valley company has increasingly been assailed for its free speech stance...
Last fall, Mr. Zuckerberg delivered a speech at Georgetown University about his commitment to protecting free speech at all costs. Since then, the report noted, Facebook had refused to take down inflammatory posts from Mr. Trump and had permitted untruthful political ads to be circulated.
The Times failed to mention that television networks don’t fact check political ads either.
A follow-up under a benign headline on the front of Saturday’s Business section showed the left-wing attacks worked: “Facebook May Block Political Ads.” Mike Isaac and Nick Corasaniti found little to criticize in the squelching of freewheeling political debate. It’s a partisan move, though the paper wouldn't admit it.
But that hands-off approach has led to an intense backlash against the social network. Lawmakers, civil rights groups and Facebook’s own employees have assailed it for letting hate speech and misinformation fester on its site.