What a scene!
It’s not something I ever thought I would witness in America in my lifetime.
It came innocently enough Wednesday in a forum at the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills for Facebook execs touting their new video-on-demand service.
But hate-filled reporters not satisfied with Facebook’s war on free speech, the free press and freedom of religion demanded the banning of the No. 1 cable news channel in America – Fox News – from the largest social media forum in the world.
The fireworks began when Fidji Simo, Facebook’s vice president of video, was asked about why the company allows posts from sites like Alex Jones’ popular and controversial Infowars.
Sim’s response confirmed Facebook actively limits distribution of content from sites like Infowars, but that wasn’t enough to appease competing media representatives who object to conservative content even being permitted on such forums.
“To be totally transparent, I find Infowars to be absolutely atrocious,” Simo replied in a heated back-and-forth between the execs and media captured by Entertainment Weekly. “That being said, we have the hard job of balancing freedom of expression and safety. So, the way we navigate that is we think there’s a pretty big difference between what is allowed on Facebook and what gets distribution. So what we’re trying to do is make it so that if you are saying something that’s untrue on Facebook – you’re allowed to say it as long as you’re an authentic person and you adhere to our community standards – but we’re trying to make it so it doesn’t get that much distribution. .… We don’t always get it right. As you can imagine, it’s very complicated, but that’s sort of our principle for dealing with information.”
Simo also explained Facebook’s determinations about what content is permitted and what is limited or banned depends on what unnamed “fact checkers” say and complaints from Facebook’s audience.
“When we have something that we think – that a fact checker has told is probably not true, or a lot of our audience is telling us is not true, we just limit distribution,” Fido said. “We tell our algorithms that this is probably not something we want to see distributed widely. So that’s one way. Another way, a lot of how misinformation spreads, is by people sharing the content. … We actually pop up a module that says, ‘Hey you’re about to share something our fact checker thinks is inaccurate, you may not want to do that.’ That decreases distribution very dramatically, north of 80 percent. That’s very effective at reducing the spread of it.”
But that didn’t appease the “reporters” out for banning even the most popular cable news channel in the country from using Facebook.
“One of the most prominent organizations you’re working with is Fox News, and they’re sort of incorrigible about proliferating a lot of misinformation,” said the unnamed critic. “Can you speak to your reasoning behind that? Why would you want to work with an organization like that when, as you said, you’re trying to limit the spread of false information?”
Rick Van Veen, head of global creative strategy at Facebook, jumped in: “Yeah, well, given that we have limited time, I’d like to keep it – Fidji and I don’t lead the news organization. Campbell Brown leads that. …”
Another reporter jumped in demanding: “Answer the question!”
“We have limited time,” responded Van Veen.
“We’ll give you time!” shouted another reporter.
Simo said “We have a range of new shows we’re presenting. …”
“But Fox News is still on every day, including the weekends on this programming list,” shot back another reporter.
“So is CNN …” said Simo.
That prompted laughter in the room where, apparently, many don’t think CNN and Fox News are in the same league when it comes to accuracy.
“We are really trying to show a range of programming that shows the range of the political spectrum,” explained Simo.
Very strange – and more than a little scary. Here we had media representatives that compete with Fox News arguing for the outright censorship of the No. 1 cable news outlet in America, while Facebook execs argued for limiting the distribution of more conservative voices in the media.
Is that the Hobson’s choice we need to make?