The World Today for November 09, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

Meta Problematic

WORLD

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg had a chance late last year to stand up to the communist leaders of Vietnam. Instead, as the Washington Post explained, he blinked.

Vietnamese officials asked Zuckerberg to stop the posts of government critics. Refusing their requests could have jeopardized more than $1 billion in annual revenues. Zuckerberg proceeded to censor “anti-state” posts, curtailing free speech, according to human rights activists.

In some countries, such as the US, critics of Facebook charge that the company overreaches in its acceptance of free speech to the point that the social network disseminates misinformation. Around the world, as the whistleblower who released the so-called Facebook Papers suggested, the Silicon Valley company’s actions have been equally controversial but often more complex.

For example, in India, the company’s biggest market, Facebook generated an “inundation of hate speech, misinformation and celebrations of violence,” the New York Times wrote, citing an internal Facebook report the company had hidden from the public. Fake accounts and bots were attempting to alter elections. Misinformation about the coronavirus was the norm. Images of dead bodies designed to stoke outrage between ethnic and religious groups were common fare on newsfeeds.

Meanwhile, after researchers discovered that people in the Middle East were using Facebook to lure and entrap victims of human trafficking from Africa and South Asia, tech giant Apple threatened to pull Facebook off its app store platform, the Associated Press reported. That major decision, if enacted, would surely have moved financial markets around the globe. Facebook promised to make changes but later the social network’s executives admitted to themselves that they were “under-enforcing on confirmed abusive activity.”

Would-be employers-victimizers in Kuwait could use Facebook-owned Instagram to rate and buy slaves, for example, the BBC added. In response, Facebook banned a hashtag used in keyword searches on the social network.

In Ethiopia, Facebook permitted hate speech and incendiary language that led to violence, according to CNN. The company failed to add staff, especially workers who can read the many different local languages that people use in the sprawling nation. Today, arguably in part due to Facebook’s influence, Ethiopia is in the throes of a bloody civil war.

Similarly, European political parties complained to Facebook in 2019 that, after the social network changed the algorithms that connect people on the platform, they had to adopt increasingly extreme policy positions and negative public statements in order to maintain engagement among their followers, CBS News reported. Far-right political parties in Poland who seek to amplify their xenophobic views weren’t complaining, however, added Stars and Stripes.

Who would have ever thought a like button would cause so much trouble.

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