Facebook is calling for more regulation of the tech industry, including a vague call for “more transparent” content moderation and accountability for hosting illegal content, but makes scant mention of regulation to prevent censorship and political interference by the Silicon Valley giants themselves.
In a wide-ranging post on its official website, Facebook says “It’s been 25 years since comprehensive internet regulations were passed. It’s time for an update.”
Yet the four areas that Facebook calls for more regulation in would not check the company’s vast and growing power to interfere in elections around the world. The items mentioned by Facebook are “combating foreign election interference,” “protecting people’s privacy and data,” “enabling safe and easy data portability between platforms,” and “thoughtful changes to Section 230.”
Some of these proposals could theoretically weaken censorship. Data portability between platforms, for example, could theoretically make it easier to transfer a profile from Facebook to a competitor. Yet Facebook is no friend to free speech-oriented competitors — in 2018, Facebook Messenger blocked links to Minds.com, a competing social network that allows a much wider range of free expression than Facebook.
Section 230 reform could also create free speech obligations for platforms like Facebook. But it could also do the opposite, imposing consequences on Facebook — and its smaller competitors — for failing to take down illegal content quickly enough. Facebook’s idea for Section 230 reform is of the latter kind, suggesting harsher consequences for platforms that don’t take down such content swiftly enough.
There is no sign that Facebook supports a Hawley-style exemption for companies below a certain market cap, meaning the regulation would mainly hurt smaller companies that don’t have the content moderation capacities (and multibillion-dollar warchest) that Facebook does — companies like Gab, Parler, Rumble, and Minds.
Not only does Facebook fail to call for regulation to prevent Silicon Valley’s political interference — a growing concern for foreign governments — it openly boasts about efforts to interfere in politics around the world.
“We detect and remove manipulation campaigns around the world and across our apps,” boasts Facebook. “Since 2017, we have removed over 100 networks worldwide for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior, including ahead of major democratic elections.”
While branded as a campaign against “inauthentic behavior,” Facebook’s election interference has overwhelmingly targeted the populist right.
In France in 2017, Facebook removed more than 30,000 accounts ahead of the country’s presidential election, in what was widely interpreted as an attack on pages supportive of nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen.
In Brazil in 2018, Facebook censored the main network of support for populist president Jair Bolsonaro days before a runoff election.
In Italy in 2019, ahead of EU elections, Facebook censored dozens of accounts with a combined 2.46 million followers, most of which were supportive of the League, Matteo Salvini’s right-wing populist party, and the left-wing populist 5-star movement.
Facebook is one of the many platforms that censored President Donald Trump while he was still in office, the first time a world leader was permanently banned from the platform, leading to outcry from national governments around the world.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.