Two steps forward, three steps back.
Facebook, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and COO Sheryl Sandberg all have a bit of image problem lately. The social media platform – with its 2.7 billion users a month – has a history of allowing “bad actors” (such as Russian propagandists and Rightwing extremists) to spread misinformation, sow discord, and weaponize the political process. Mark and Sheryl have too often bowed to Trump and have shown themselves to be 1%ers only interested in protecting their billions. And after the nightmare of the 2016 elections, in which Facebook almost certainly helped hand the election to the Republicans, many people are calling for a change.
To that end, Zuckerberg announced today an Historic Facebook campaign that, he says, will boost voter registration, turnout, and voices.
He writes in a USA Today editorial:
I believe platforms like Facebook can play a positive role in this election by helping Americans use their voice where it matters most — by voting. We’re announcing on Wednesday the largest voting information campaign in American history. Our goal is to help 4 million people register to vote. As we take on this effort, I want to outline our civic responsibilities:
►First, we’re encouraging people to vote. To achieve this, we’re creating a new Voting Information Center with authoritative information, including how and when to vote, as well as details about voter registration, voting by mail and information about early voting. We’ll also include posts from state election officials and verified local election authorities. We’ll show this center at the top of the Facebook News Feed and on Instagram to make sure everyone gets a chance to see it.
Overall, we expect more than 160 million people in the United States will see authoritative information on Facebook about how to vote in the general election from July through November. This is in addition to reminders to register, information about voting by mail, and Election Day reminders that we’ve run through the primaries and will run for the general election as well.
►Second, we have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the vote itself. In 2016, we were slow to identify foreign interference on our platform. Since then, we’ve built some of the most advanced systems in the world to protect against election interference — investing billions of dollars in technology and hiring tens of thousands of people to work on safety and security. We’ve learned from this experience and have protected against interference in more than 200 elections around the world.
The threat of election interference is real and ongoing, but our systems are more prepared than ever. We took down more than 50 networks of malicious accounts in 2019, and we’ve removed 18 this year. This work is never finished, but we’ve learned a lot and have adapted our systems to protect against interference.
Which all seems OK. Then we get to part three of his plan…
►Finally, we remain committed to giving everyone a voice…. Free expression is part of the messy process of democracy, and we take our responsibility to protect it incredibly seriously.
Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content. We have rules against speech that will cause imminent physical harm or suppress voting, and no one is exempt from them. But accountability only works if we can see what those seeking our votes are saying, even if we viscerally dislike what they say.
Ultimately, I believe the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting, and I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves. That’s why I think we should maintain as open a platform as possible, accompanied by ambitious efforts to boost voter participation.
And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Facebook absolutely refuses to do anything about the lies and misinformation campaigns that were so rampant during the last election (and are already threatening the upcoming one). It’s all just more of the same old same old.
He ends by saying:
By giving people a voice, registering and turning out voters, and preventing interference, I believe Facebook is supporting and strengthening our democracy in 2020 and beyond.
So, what do you think? Is Facebook on the right track with its new voting initiative, or is it just a Bandaid on a bullet wound?