Google, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms are equally bad, experts say, requires government intervention

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Facebook isn’t the only social media platform held accountable, according to a disinformation expert at SFU.


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But it is certainly one of them, Ahmed said. Al-Rawi, assistant professor of news, social media and public communications at Burnaby Mountain School.

He was responding to a former Facebook executive who denounced the company’s alleged role in helping the US Capitol rioters on January 6 coordinate their attack, but she said nothing that was not well known, he said. Al-Rawi.

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“I’m not surprised, we have heard such allegations before and this is something we already know about social media companies.

“He said what everyone already knows. I mean, it’s just an expert confirmation of what academics, politicians and journalists have been talking about for over two years. “

Frances Haugen, a former Facebook manager who has also worked at Google and Pinterest, has accused Facebook of hiding internal data showing that the company’s algorithm was fueling messages that sowed division, hatred and misinformation.


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Facebook had reversed a policy aimed at limiting such communication right after Joe Biden won the US presidential election last November, instead of keeping safeguards in place until after he was sworn in on January 6.

Facebook, which has 2.8 billion users, 60 percent of all people connected to the Internet on Earth, repeatedly chooses profit over public safety, Haugen said.

In fairness, Al-Rawi said, while the public discourse right now is almost exclusively about Facebook, many other social media sites, like Google, are escaping the blame they deserve.

“And there are a lot of problems on YouTube and elsewhere, so I see a lot of blame (directed) at Facebook, and I’m not saying Facebook is innocent, far from it, but other social media sites should also be held accountable. .


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“Just to give you an example, if you go to Instagram and search for the hashtag QAnon, it’s actually blocked. If you go to Twitter, it is allowed.

“That means Twitter is like, ‘Yeah, go ahead, say what you want.’

Chris tenove, a UBC political science postdoctoral researcher who has written on harmful speeches and misinformation, agreed that Facebook is not alone in deserving guilt and closer scrutiny.

The Jan.6 insurgents also used other social media platforms, with some of them doing a worse job than Facebook in monitoring problematic content, Tenove said.

“But they also used Facebook to help find and act.”

Chris Tenove is a postdoctoral researcher at UBC, specializing in political communication, harmful speech and misinformation.
Chris Tenove is a postdoctoral researcher at UBC, specializing in political communication, harmful speech and misinformation. PNG

Regarding Facebook’s policy of trying to limit some types of political communication and misinformation in the aftermath of the US elections, Tenove said that, on the one hand, it was the company trying to get ahead of a problem.


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“On the other hand, it was an example of the kind of ad hoc approach that continues to be applied to these kinds of problems.”

None of the experts can see that the clock is rewound, social networks are here to stay.

For one thing, social media has been invaluable to some during the pandemic, allowing people to stay at least virtually in touch when they can’t physically meet up.

The federal and provincial governments use social media to promote vaccination, to warn of forest fires and tsunamis; small businesses use them to promote themselves; those who can’t afford data plans use them to keep in touch with others; They are used by police and citizens to help find and prosecute criminal behavior, such as an assault on public transport.

“We need them,” Al-Rawi said. “I would call them necessary evils.”


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So what can governments do as regulators and policy makers?

Al-Rawi took a deep breath.

“They are not doing enough,” he said. “Governments should definitely put more pressure on social media sites, they should make them more accountable. Monetary and financial penalties would be very helpful.

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“But again, it’s very easy for me to say that (Facebook, Google and YouTube) are all bad, but to be fair, there are so many bad actors out there, a lot of them. I mean, Twitter has gotten rid of the blame, although I see a lot of misinformation on Twitter, much more than on Facebook and Instagram. “

While governments might want to split Facebook and other social media platforms for reasons of unfair competition or possible monopoly behavior, Tenove added, he wasn’t sure that would fix the problem of problematic content.


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“We need to be able to think of alternatives to Facebook that allow us to communicate individually and as groups around political issues and hopefully in more productive ways,” he said.

“We also need to think about how to make sure Facebook is incentivized to do better through carrots and sticks.

Facebook Vice President of Policy and Public Affairs, Nick clegg, told employees in a memo last week that “the evidence that there is simply does not support the idea that Facebook, or social media in general, is the main cause of polarization.”

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