One of the tools being tested will enable users to inform Facebook if certain news stories are using “misleading language”. Some users posted images of a Facebook survey asking them the following question: “To what extent do you think that this link’s title withholds key details of the story?”.
It is still unclear what kind of actions will be carried out after this additional user data is collected, but it is likely that some sort of a database, containing the list of “misleading” news websites, will be generated.
In a not so distant past, content curators from Facebook confirmed that they received direct orders from the company to decrease the relevance or even hide from the newsfeed stories and content with conservative language. While this happened in the US, similar stories have been reported in Brazil, the United Kingdom around the time of the Brexit, and in other countries.
Recently, there were other reports that Facebook developed a special software for the Chinese market, that would enable “third parties” to authorize the contents before posting it to the users’ timelines. The initiative would aim to lift the current ban of the social network in the country.
The main difference between this new software and the current content restrictions in some countries is that instead of reacting to a government request to hide some specific content, Facebook would be giving the option to some parties to censor and take down content before it is even posted on the network.
It is true that when you create a profile on Facebook or any other social network, you have to accept their terms and conditions in exchange of the “non-paid” use of their platforms. Most of these terms and conditions allow the social networks to analyze the information you are publishing and reading for several proposes, including targeted advertisements and many others, but is it ethical to take advantage of this information in order to define what content you should or should not see?
Since Snowden’s NSA information leak we know that we can be monitored at any given time by government agencies. The realization of this fact, however, didn’t stop us from using the same networks, nor did it prompt the closure of the NSA or other agencies involved in the perpetual recording and storage of our data.
But now we are entering a whole new level in which companies and governments will attempt to define what is right and wrong for us to see, read and talk about. What’s even more bizarre is that the CEO of Facebook could potentially run for office, while retaining control over one of the most popular social networks in the world, with the capability of retrieving and accessing anyone’s data without any sort of legal process or request.
This Orwellian trend is truly scary and we should really start questioning ourselves about the extent to which we are willing to continue handing out personal data and information to these networks.