FACEBOOK IS A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY ?

By- Wahiduz Jaman

There was a time when Facebook used to bind us together irrespective of our differences. We used to chat with faraway friends. We used to share our interests and express our opinions without getting trolled. The Facebook was then a celebrated community to many. It is not anymore.

On August 14, 2020, The Wall Street Journal published a report on the alleged role of Facebook in promoting hate speeches on its platform. The report revealed disturbing details about the platform. It established Facebook executives’ link with political leaders. The Facebook policing team, which was tasked with reporting and bringing down hateful contents, had noticed violations of the company’s hate-speech rules by leading political leaders. But when these violations were reported to seniors, they were told that acting upon them “would bring damage to company’s business prospects.”

In a 6,600-word memo, a fired Facebook data scientist reveals how Facebook failed to act against leaders’ attempt to manipulate voters. She wrote that “I have blood on my hands”, mentioning that she has “personally made decisions that affected national presidents with oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians that she has lost count”.

Despite these explosive revelations, Facebook ignores to act upon the hate speeches and fake accounts that are both undermining tranquility and political affairs around the world. Evidences suggest how Facebook ad campaign helped Donald Trump win the 2016 US Presidential Election. There are also evidences that reveal how data analytics firm linked to Donald Trump compiled millions of Facebook profiles to target American voters.

However, a few years after admitting under political pressure that Facebook needs to prevent disinformation campaigns on its platform, founder Mark Zuckerberg maintains that the company should stay away from regulating online speech. Twitter, in order to tackle fake news, hate speeches and state driven propaganda, has launched warning levels. On May 26, 2020, when Donald

Trump has tweeted a false claim about mall-in ballots, Twitter refutes the claim by adding links with information for the first time. It has introduced “state- affiliated media” levels under the profiles of news outlets that are partly or fully funded by the State. Russia’s People’s Daily and China’s China Daily and Global Times are the first news outlets to get the “state-affiliated media” tag. Twitter declares that this new categorization covers accounts in the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China – the five permanent United Nations Security Council Members.

Facebook has deliberately promoted and provided a platform for the hate speeches to proliferate. Indian politician T. Raja Singh has said Rohingya Muslims should be shot. He has called Muslims traitors and threatened to demolish mosques. For a normal user, such level of hatred would attract suspension from the platform, but since T. Raja Singh is a BJP legislator, he enjoys Facebook’s preferential treatment.

Current and former Facebook employees have doubted the role of top public- policy executive, Ankhi Das, in removing hate speeches from the platform. They accuse her of showing favoritism toward Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

Ankhi Das is the sister of Dr. Rashmi Das, who is the former JNU President of the BJP’s student wing ABVP. She has attended many sessions under RSS- operated Rashtriya Kala Manch organized by her sister Rashmi Das.

Facebook has deliberately breached its own privacy policies. In the major Cambridge Analytica scandal, reports have established how Facebook has used its users’ data to build voter profiles to help Trump win. Data reveals how Facebook allowed third party to extract vast amounts of private information from its system and how that entity manipulated the private data. The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica revelations have led to a furor all across the world.

These revelations have changed the world but not Facebook. In connecting us with new friends, Facebook has really played a crucial role. But this role cannot be fulfilled at the cost of our privacy. To quote a former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission, “while it appears that Facebook is suddenly ‘woke’ to privacy issues, it’s safe to assume it’s business as usual there.” Facebook prefer growth and profits over designing a platform that serves the users’ interests. Facebook needs to do the right thing now in order to keep itself relevant.


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