One side would have social network giants granting virtual impunity when it comes to leaving provocative, defamatory and otherwise hateful posts, the other extreme is totalitarian blockages of unwanted content without explanation. There is another aspect at play however, when these platforms become so successful they practically become a state in their own right.
The most important precedent for the crisis of trust of social networks has been the numerous scandals around Facebook: the collection and leaking of user personal information (the Cambridge Analytica scandal) and extremely selective ideological preferences (with corresponding blockages or politicized advertising) have been particularly notable.
The platform has become an extremely powerful stand-alone totalitarian tool and has ceased to suit a large number of groups: some due to its being over-ideological and others for its being under-ideological.
While the former are trying at the state level to take control of the impunity of social networks (as in the case of Turkey), the latter are trying to finally transform social networks from commercialized platforms into pure ideological weapons against all opponents of the ultra-liberal path of development.
One example of this is the recent Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which blames Facebook for lack of censorship and involves dozens of large commercial organizations in boycotting the social network.
Campaigners argue that Facebook is not doing enough to censor hate and racist content (in the context of the protests after George Floyd’s murder).
“They allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and so many others. They named Breitbart News a “trusted news source” and made The Daily Caller a “fact checker” despite both publications having records of working with known white nationalists” according to the campaigners’ website.
The Group demands more control over hateful and discriminatory content with regular independent audits, to return money to advertisers whose ads were shown next to “bad” content, and to introduce purely ideological prohibitions, up to the obligation to believe in climate change politics:
“…remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism.”
Some of the largest companies have joined the campaign: Reebok, Adidas, Microsoft, Puma, The Volkswagen Group, Ford, Honda, Verizon, Diageo and Unilever, Starbucks and Coca-Cola, Mars, BP as well as Viber.
This is not the first attempt to kill the remnants of freedom in social networks: in 2017, many major brands refused to advertise on YouTube after their ads were placed next to “racist and homophobic” videos. How this ended was felt by many users and organizations whose channels were permanently blocked unilaterally for violating one of the hundreds of rules of tolerance.
This looks absurd: Are the biggest capitalists blaming Facebook for their thirst for profit, even though they themselves are primarily profiting from the Floyd case and the black lives matter trend? To a large extent, their ostentatious support for anti-racism campaigns is linked exclusively to commercial interests: to show solidarity so that their offices are not crushed in the course of protests and products continue to be bought.
At the same time, the very “protest” of companies against Facebook is initially absurd: despite the fact that some of the world’s largest advertisers supported the boycott, Facebook’s total revenue was not particularly affected. After all, the bulk of the company’s revenue comes from small advertisers who can not give up advertising on the largest platform.
The founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg only laughed at the attempt to boycott, and clearly made it clear that although he is ready for a dialogue with the participants of the action, the policy of the social network is not going to change.
Facebook is first and foremost a commercial platform whose main ideology is money. Therefore, it does not care about the national interests of countries or purely ideological structures. Facebook is essentially a state in itself, which dictates the agenda in the way that is beneficial to it.
Facebook easily destroys competitors by denying them access to data on its platform. Here’s the feedback of the organizations affected by this approach:
“The net effect of Facebook’s anticompetitive scheme is one of the largest unlawful monopolies ever seen in the United States—one protected by a far-reaching and effectively impenetrable barrier to entry arising from feedback loops and powerful network effects.”
Should we replace Facebook today with another social network? Would doing so even be possible? UWI will look at alternatives to Zuckerberg’s virtual monopoly in our next article.