A Facebook boss has said that the company isn’t responsible for what people say and believe on the platform.
Responding to ongoing criticism that Facebook encourages hate speech, Andrew Bosworth says it is individuals who choose to believe and share a thing.
He added that it is the responsibility of people and society, not Facebook, to deal with this.
So we have to put in all the work to moderate a business, while they pocket all the money.
He talks about freedom of speech, irrespective of whether he likes what is said or not.
On the face of it, it is a reasonable argument that a lot of people would agree with.
And in a balanced and well-educated society, even I would agree with his statements but there are a few fundamental issues that Bosworth conveniently overlooks.
In the world before social media, I may have been able to spread my toxic beliefs to my family, my neighbours and friends around the braai.
That is in all likelihood where my influence would’ve ended.
Social media’s greatest attribute, is also the bane of its existence – it is a loudhailer on a global scale.
Now I can spread my toxic beliefs to the four corners of the earth and reach even strangers who are easily convinced of just about anything.
In the modern world where everybody is connected all of the time, individuals can single-handedly control narratives, subtly twist facts, change minds and spark dangerous movements with real-world consequences, all from the convenience of the keyboards.
By way of example, it was recently found that more than 60% of all the online vaccine disinformation in the USA, is being spread by just 12 individuals – many of them with hidden business agendas.
These are not stupid people. To the contrary, they are exceptionally smart and know just how to manipulate information with very little concern for the harm they cause.
It’s the reason why a group of Rohingya refugees is suing Facebook for $150 billion, claiming that Facebook allowed them to become victims of genocide in Myanmar, where the platform is used turn the population against them.
Bosworth’s argument only makes sense in a world of educated users, who can distinguish between fact and fiction.
In a world where the majority of people have no or very little education, everything they see on social media is easily believed as fact.
And that is not necessarily a choice.