September 1, 2020
Facebook users began receiving notifications about updates to FB’s terms of service. The wording has users wondering if this is another move at censorship. Is it clear yet that big tech companies engage in censorship? If they are controlling what content you see, is it important to question why we believe what we believe, and where that information came from?
Many Facebook users have been receiving notifications from Facebook stating that on Oct. 1, 2020, they will be updating their Terms of Service. The new changes will allow Facebook to remove content or restrict access if the company feels it is necessary to avoid legal or regulatory impact.
Desktop and mobile users were receiving notifications that looked like this:
Effective October 1, 2020, section 3.2 of our Terms of Service will be updated to include: “We also can remove or restrict access to your content, services or information if we determine that doing so is reasonably necessary to avoid or mitigate adverse legal or regulatory impacts to Facebook.”
Users of social media have been rather critical of the recent updates, feeling that it may lead to more censorship or election meddling from big tech companies. Other users feel this could be a great move to get rid of more fake news.
Before we move on, don’t get me wrong, fake news exists, and is a problem. I have spoken to many other website owners within the independent media community over the years, urging them to take a deeper look at some of the stories they put out and ask whether they are actually true. People can do poor research at times, and they can miss important facts. At other times, some websites seek only to make money and thus they post anything that will get them traffic, even if it’s false.
That said, much of independent media has been falsely lumped in with those unique cases, making us seem guilty by association as opposed to actually creating false news. We have had this experience ourselves.
As a journalist and publisher for the last 11 years who has not been quiet about political corruption, and who has inspired many to transform themselves to transform the world, I can say that here at Collective Evolution we’ve experienced a great deal of Facebook censorship. Since Facebook began censoring Collective Evolution’s content shortly after the 2016 US presidential election, we’ve lost millions in revenue and have had to completely restructure our business as a result. This is not something I’m complaining about per se, it’s more so making you aware of what has happened all while Facebook simply touted that they were trying to stop ‘fake news’ and keep ‘quality content’ on their platform. So why were we affected under those terms?
Facebook’s ‘independent fact-checkers’ have come after our content at least 30+ times. The vast majority of the time perhaps, 95%, fact-checkers are flat out wrong about their classification of our content being “false.” We’ve chronicled our stories about this many times over, you can see an example here. It takes weeks to speak with them and get the ‘false news’ strikes removed, costing us reach, revenue and reputation. We would argue that this is the primary motivator behind why fact-checkers classify content as false, by the time a strike gets removed, the damage is already done. People believe the story isn’t true, and the company that wrote it loses trust amongst people.
Facebook’s terms have always been misleading and vague, one could argue that in some ways these new ones feel more direct: “We’re going to delete content.” Although that is clear, what’s still vague is what they will delete. This makes it very tough for any user or company to know what to do in order to be ‘safe’ in the eyes of Facebook.
Really looking at it, in plain language, Facebook’s updated terms coming into effect Oct. 1, 2020 essentially read ‘We don’t care if the content is true, false, legal or illegal, we will remove anything that may help us not get caught allowing it on our platform.”
A human rights commenter on Twitter noted:
Disturbing new addition to #Facebook terms of service that could be used to justify online censorship, particularly with govts using restrictive national laws to order social media platforms to censor information critical of the govt or monarchy in violation of #OnlineFreedom
It’s certainly reasonable to think Facebook is giving themselves permission to remove content that governments could come after them for, is this in essence government-driven censorship? It’s hard to say, but I’m sure time will tell.
The challenging part as always is, who decides what is false and is not? Who decides what is dangerous? Can true information that the people should know be claimed as false? Can it be claimed as dangerous?
Are these new changes coming in just in time for the 2020 presidential election in the US? So that any dissenting voices can be removed ‘fairly’ and without reason? Who knows. We don’t write these stories to predict or even make anyone fearful of where we are headed. We write them so people are aware of what is at play so we can make different choices in our lives. Without being aware of something, and choosing to question, how are we supposed to change the world around us?
This would not be the first time efforts have gone into shaping public perception via censoring or hiding information from people. The CIA’s Project Mockingbird was very clear on that, and it’s more than likely that the project was never shut down. The key question is, is what we believe about our world really true? And if it isn’t, how do we find truth when independent media is being shut out on social media platforms? Can we truly trust mainstream media with their long-held reputation of poor journalism and deception?