Hate and fake news: is Facebook in trouble?

In reaction to an advertising boycott campaign in which big companies like Unilever, Honda and Coca Cola are are taking part, Facebook has announced that it will take stronger action against hate posts and fake news. Criticism of social networks like Facebook and Twitter has flared up again since the Black Lives Matter protests. Europe's media wonder what good the boycott can do.

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Kauppalehti (FI) /

Old media looking surprisingly modern

If corporate responsibility now becomes more important, traditional media will be at an advantage, stresses Kauppalehti:

“At its current dimensions the boycott isn't shaking the mammoth with its market value of almost 575 billion euros. It is possible, however, that the campaign will get bigger and that even more companies will turn off the cash flow. If it expands, the impact could be significant. ... A growing trend alongside advertising in social media is corporate responsibility. Facebook, which amid all the outrage is primarily concerned with preserving its business model, is being asked to make major changes. The traditional media, which are committed to balanced reporting, responsibility and communicating accurate information, are slowly beginning to look like modern platforms.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Obtuse posts bring more advertising revenue

Facebook needs the hate, Avvenire's counters with a laconic smile:

“Despite the threat of losing billions of dollars in advertising (and the real risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant), Zuckerberg wants to limit interventions aimed at restricting the freedom of expression on his social network as much as possible. Even if this freedom is ultimately used in an unpleasant and even horrible way. The founder's love of 'free thinking' and its expression may be the romantic side of Facebook, but it's also the ugly side of his business. Zuckerberg knows very well that the most obtuse, divisive and radical posts are the ones that most easily 'go viral', generating clicks and advertising revenue.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The only language the company understands

Facebook has brought this crisis and its plunging stock prices upon itself, the Süddeutsche Zeitung gloats:

“At first the management feigned offended innocence, implying that it was powerless to do anything about the dirt it allows to circulate in the digital world. Only under political pressure did the group finally take action - albeit very moderate - against haters. In view of the US elections in November and the debate about racism, more and more companies no longer want to support a forum on which the basic values of democracy are trampled underfoot on a daily basis. And that's a good thing, too. Yes, the Internet needs freedom, but it is not a lawless space. The boycott movement speaks the only language that Facebook seems to understand: the company has made a lot of money with hate, now this hate is costing it a lot of money.”

Daily Mail (GB) /

Against the dictate of the cancel culture

Columnist Piers Morgan questions the moral motivation behind the campaign in the Daily Mail:

“What these firms are really doing, ironically, is bowing to a hate-mob intent on destroying Facebook. And if this campaign succeeds, the campaigners will feel empowered to go after anyone else they fancy tossing on the woke bonfire. This strikes me as a very dangerous moment in these incendiary pandemic-fuelled culture wars. What's at stake is basic freedom of speech. I don't personally want to be on Facebook anymore, but I will loudly defend its right to exist and not be subjected to this kind of bullying, hypocritical, cancel culture bullsh*t.”

De Morgen (BE) /

An army of moderators is needed

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg needs to do more to regain credibility than adjust a few algorithms, demands De Morgen:

“Facebook promises to place warnings under hateful messages. ... But who gets to judge this? An algorithm, artificial intelligence or a human expert? ... If Zuckerberg really wants to combat hate and violence propaganda he must do more than warn against racist messages. Facebook would need to deploy a small army of moderators to ban all calls for violent extremism from the forum, and in doing so strike a difficult balance between the right to freedom of expression and public safety.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Zuckerberg will have to make concessions

Not even this will be enought, De Volkskrant believes:

“The more (even small) advertisers join the boycott in the next few weeks, the greater the pressure on Mark Zuckerberg will be. Of course he can hire a few thousand extra moderators, but that doesn't seem to be the solution. A stream of 115 billion posts per day can never be totally purged. If Zuckerberg really wants to address the growing criticism against his enormous platform, he'll have to make concessions on his principles: he'll have to check the facts, including statements from politicians, make internal rules and algorithms more transparent and allow independent supervision.”