After consecutive terror attacks in Europe, Facebook has come up with a blog post titled ‘Hard Questions’, where it will discuss various internal policies with respect to some of the controversies that Facebook has been held accountable for. One recently published post was on Facebook’s stand on terrorism and how it will mitigate the problem. Other issues that it will discuss include fake news, hoaxes, Facebook’s position within a democracy and how it will be good for the users.
The blog post seems to be an attempt to engage with it’s users as well as initiate a dialogue to collectively (with users) solve issues which can infringe on the idea of democracy. Thus, the company seems to be working on changing the social media experience for its users. Some issues Facebook will discuss include: the actions to be taken for an account of someone recently deceased, on monitoring the kind of news that circulates through the ‘News Feed’, whether the information shared on the Feed is fake or a hoax and so on. Since Facebook’s reach is global, it is the world’s largest social networking platform after all, its attempt to explain itself talks about social media’s responsibility as a worldwide platform.
In Facebook’s view, the user plays an integral role here. By using input from user experience, it intends to solve issues such as terrorism where it will take up reports from people and review them. In the case of fake news, it has a system to track the authenticity of the information shared by methods like number of likes and shares. Moreover, these stories will go through fact-checking mechanisms such as AP News, factchecker.org, Politifact, and Snopes.
According to reports, when a person dies, their Facebook profile used to turn into a memorial page. However, of late, there have been issues with the person responsible for handling the page. The US tech giant has also received flak for allowing accounts related to paedophilia and child pornography to exist on its website. It is now on Facebook to deal with these issues, and in a responsible manner.
In its first blog post, which deals with countering terrorism, Facebook denies supporting terrorism. But it does agree that it did have some problems curbing the terrorism issue. However, in its defence, Facebook has at least come up with a plan for tackling it. Other social media platforms, notably twitter, have remained mum on this front.
Facebook intends to use artificial intelligence and counter terrorism expertise to solve the issue. The social networking site will use artificial intelligence by approaching areas like language understanding and image matching in order to remove such elements from its networks.
Secondly, Facebook intends to collaborate with other online platforms to curb the problem. It would also remove such content by filtering reported content or accounts which disseminate information related to terror elements. Moreover, it would take help from its law and defence experts, who includes academicians and analysts. However, Facebook has also clarified that these extremist organisations do not exist only online, but have a much wider base offline as well.
Interestingly, the blog post also seeks help from, and promises to provide help to, government organisations. This comes at a time when Facebook has been accused of not doing enough to remove terrorism-related content online, which allows terror groups to propagate their agenda on the platform.
Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, had slammed Facebook for playing an essential role in giving terrorist groups a space to widen their objectives. This had come at a time when the UK government had pressured Facebook to share with them Khalid Masood’s WhatsApp messages with them. Masood was the perpetrator of a terrorist attack in London, where he drove a car through a number of pedestrians, killing five and injuring dozens.
Earlier in June, the European Union had recommended that social media websites share with law enforcement authorities the user content hosted in their respective cloud storage facilities, much to the annoyance of social media giants such as Google and Facebook, who believe, strongly, that this infringes on user privacy.
Facebook is attempting to fight terrorism and other issues with user feedback, AI and other such tools. Clearly, Facebook is doing its part, and with help from users and sufficient feedback, the situation can only improve.