Facebook is in serious trouble. It is facing numerous criticisms over censorship, abuse of personal information and even governmental intervention. It remains the defacto social media platform, although it sheds lots users regularly. Recent evidence suggests that Facebook’s user engagement is tanking. It is not the first time that the end of Facebook is being predicted and it will likely survive after the dust settles. However survival will not solve its crisis problem and newcomers will likely take much of its market share in coming years.
The most recent controversy with Facebook is about censorship and governmental scrutiny. There is talk about the U.S. government stepping in, to force Facebook to split off some of its services into separate corporate entities. The argument being that Facebook has become a monopoly and thus it needs to be split up.
The U.S. government will likely force Facebook to split into different entities.
The Cambridge Analytica misuse of personal information for political purposes and other more recent abuse of privacy, not to mention the Russian election fraud will force the split. But the government moves at a snail’s pace and thus how soon the split will happen is up for debate.
But the controversy of privacy is just one element of the many controversies involving Facebook. Most other countries have recently enacted stringent privacy legislation that forces companies, like Facebook, to declare their privacy policies to users and empowers users to have more control over their privacy. The United States remains behind the other countries, but Facebook needs access to the other countries to continue its user base growth.
Foreign legislatures have started to hold Facebook liable for their violations of user privacy. In response, Mark Zuckerberg and other company leaders have started avoiding testifying about Facebook’s practices to foreign governments. Most recently Zuckerberg ignored a subpoena to the Canadian parliament. As a result, Canada has ordered that Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, be served a summons the next time they enter Canada.
The possibility of a Canadian summons has been lost in the latest controversy over the Nancy Pelosi video that Facebook refuses to remove. The fake video depicts Nancy Pelosi as inebriated. But the video is a fake and Facebook knows it is fake. Yet it refuses to remove the video.
In this case Facebook is right.
If Facebook removes the video it censors an opinion about a political figure. Therein lies the problem that Facebook will not overcome.
Censorship on social media is a serious problem. The problem lies in who determines what needs to be removed and what can stay. Each of us has our own belief in what is acceptable and what is wrong. Corporate policy is dictated by its leadership.
Does the fake Pelosi video need to be removed?
Each of us would have a different take on that.
The issue of censorship has the GOP looking for an alternative social media platform for the 2020 elections as they feel that Facebook and Twitter is too liberal for them.
For me, Facebook blocks my ability to engage users on its platform as it routinely blocks my posts for review. By the time my post is released its relevance is long past and my posts just sits there. Facebook censors my posts for unknown reasons.
The problem for the current social media platforms, including Facebook is that the power for each user to make a decision as to what they want to see and what they want to avoid is supplanted by algorithms that determine what each user sees. These algorithms are designed to make the determination by what would create more user engagement as that is what makes the social media platform valuable.
A mathematical formula interferes with the user’s ability to decide for themselves.
To solve the problem of censorship on social media, the power to censor must be left to each user individually, not a mathematical formula. A social media platform should only interfere when the post violates the law in the jurisdictions that the platform operates in.
But that leaves open the issue of dealing with the extreme politics that many find offensive while others call it censorship.
Therein lies the power of the user to determine what they see and not see, by simply pushing a button that makes an objectionable item go away while moving the things they like to the top of their feeds. Through crowd sourcing, the platform and the users police themselves by forcing objectionable items off their feeds. Each user is empowered to force their feeds to show the content they like.
This technique also solves the problem of censorship in that the platform’s users self-determine what is acceptable to them.
The next social media platform needs to allow any content that is legal without interfering with what users post. However, some platforms may want to limit content because they want to maximize their ability to monetize the platform through advertising. Advertisers avoid controversial topics and thus the platforms censor certain posts because it might offend an advertiser.
To be censorship free, the next social media platform needs to figure out a way to monetize the platform without having to limit what posts are acceptable.
Although I haven’t figured out the monetizing issue, I believe that niche-focused groups within the platform that targets specific topics may solve that problem. Users and advertisers could choose which niche group they want to participate in and which ones they want to avoid.
Facebook’s algorithm and need to monetize via advertising is the reason it will likely be split into different divisions by the government. That is assuming it survives.