by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Techdirt’s Mike Masnick says, “No,” and he warns about the dangerous proposals that are being made by those who think the answer is “Yes”:
Yesterday I wrote that people rushing to blame Facebook for the election results were being ridiculous, and it generated a fair bit of discussion (much of it on Twitter). And this was before NYMag’s Max Read went out and wrote an article literally titled Donald Trump Won Because of Facebook. …
These stories tell a neat and convenient tale, a pre-packaged “thing” to blame. And they’re all [expletive deleted]. Yes, Facebook had lots of people passing around fake news stories, or misleading news stories. And, yes, lots of people live in bubbles where they only see/read/hear stuff that they are prone to agree with. But this narrative that it was Facebook’s “primed for engagement, not truth” algorithm that got people to go out and vote for Trump is both simplistic and dangerous. …
The people calling for Facebook to “fix” this problem don’t see where this leads, but it’s not good. In various conversations I’ve had in response to yesterday’s article, I keep drilling down and trying to see what people think the “solution” to this “problem” is, and it inevitably comes back to something along the lines of “well, Facebook needs to stop the fake news from spreading.” If only it could. Fake news, rumors, conspiracy theories, echo chambers and “bubbles” predate Facebook by a long shot. …
Fake news is spread in basically every election for the US President in history. It didn’t take Facebook’s algorithms, and it won’t go away if Facebook’s algorithms change.
In fact, it’s likely to make things even worse. Remember the mostly made up “controversy” about Facebook suppressing conservative news? Remember the outrage it provoked (or have you already forgotten?). Just imagine what would happen if Facebook now decided that it was only going to let people share “true” news. Whoever gets to decide that kind of thing has tremendous power — and there will be immediately claims of bias and hiding “important” stories — even if they’re bullshit. It will lead many of the people who are already angry about things to argue that their views are being suppressed and hidden and that they are being “censored.” That’s not a good recipe. And it’s an especially terrible recipe if people really want to understand why so many people are so angry at the status quo.
Telling them that the news needs to be censored to “protect” them isn’t going to magically turn Trump supporters into Hillary supporters. It will just convince them that they’re even more persecuted.
Read the whole thing!