Still Report #797 – Facebook Denies it Will Try To Stop Trump

from Bill Still

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This week, Facebook founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg denounced the political positions of Donald Trump without mentioning him by name.
“I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as ‘others,’” Zuckerberg said at the company’s annual F8 developer conference.
“I hear them calling for blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, for reducing trade, and in some cases, even for cutting access to the internet.”
Zuckerberg’s politically-charged comments were seen as unprecedented for a developer’s conference.

But behind the somewhat fuzzy political criticism was an internal poll by Facebook employees that was quite specific.
Before every Q&A Zuckerberg holds, Facebook employees vote in an internal poll of what questions should be asked of him.
One of the questions posted by Facebook employees the day before the March 4, 2016 Q&A was:
“What responsibility does Facebook have to help prevent President Trump in 2017?”
[insert “Employee Poll” screenshot]
More that 1 billion people now use Facebook, and this cycle, politicians will be spending record amounts of money on Facebook advertising. Although many of us somehow expect Facebook to be fair, they don’t have to be, and, in fact, they have not in the past.
According to Professo r Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor:
“Facebook can promote or block any material that it wants. Facebook has the same First Amendment right as the New York Times. They can completely block Trump if they want. They block him or promote him.”
Reporter Michael Nunez, writing in Gizmodo added:
“With Facebook, we don’t know what we’re not seeing. We don’t … know how that might be affecting how we see the world.”
In 2010, Facebook ran a secret experiment on 61 million users to see if they could impact their real-world voting behavior. A research paper later claimed that it worked. Facebook increased voter turnout by over 340,000 people.
In 2012, Facebook secretly tampered with the news feeds of 1.9 million users and determined that they can make you feel whatever they want you to feel.
“If Facebook decided to, it could gradually remove any pro-Trump stories or media off its site – devastating for a campaign,” wrote Gizmodo author Nunez.
“Facebook wouldn’t have to disclose it was doing this, and would be protected by the First Amendment.”
The only way Facebook could suffer any legal consequences is if it steps over the line and actually colludes with one particular candidate – to boost Sanders news, for example, and suppress Trump news.
According to Robert Drechsel, a professor of journalism ethics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison:
“… it would turn an independent expenditure (protected by the First Amendment) into a campaign contribution because it would be coordinated—and that could be restricted.”
“But if they’re just saying, ‘We don’t want Trump material on our site,’ they have every right to do that. It’s protected by the First Amendment.”
However, Facebook yesterday said that it will never use its platform to influence how people vote.
Facebook told the Hill:
“Voting is a core value of democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution we can make to the community. We encourage any and all candidates, groups, and voters to use our platform to share their views on the election and debate the issues.
I’m Still reporting from Washington. Good day.