Facebook’s Alleged Bias Towards BJP: Media Leftists Are Not Asking For Transparency, They Want Control Over Newsfeeds

Facebook’s Alleged Bias Towards BJP: Media Leftists Are Not Asking For Transparency, They Want Control Over Newsfeeds

by Amarnath Govindarajan - Monday, August 17, 2020 08:02 PM IST
Facebook’s Alleged Bias Towards BJP: Media Leftists Are Not Asking For Transparency, They Want Control Over NewsfeedsFacebook (Pixabay)
Snapshot
  • Anyone interested in a healthy democratic dialogue on social media would stay far away from making allegations that amount to saying ‘they refused to take down content I disliked!’.

The modern day publishing industry suffers from multiple power asymmetries. Publishers have lost control over distribution - nobody knows how the algorithms work on any of the major social media platforms. Publishers have also long since lost control over their online advertisement.

Now we hear that the cancel culture brigade wants to add to the powerlessness of publishers even more.

They seem to want control over what publishers and politicians can say on their social media channels, and they want only a select group of chosen individuals to decide what will be acceptable - transparency, well defined criteria and other best practises be damned.

They have sought to do this by cleverly insinuating that the individuals involved with content censorship at Facebook have been partisan in their decision making. Although reports suggest that many individuals at high levels in the technology giant have been actually connected with the Congress party, an allegation has been made that decision makers are not censoring hate content for fear of the BJP government.

Here is the thing. Anyone interested in a healthy democratic dialogue on social media would stay far away from making allegations that amount to saying 'they refused to take down content I disliked!'.

What would they ask if they were really interested in making Facebook's content oversight truly healthy?

First, they'd ask for Facebook to address the complete asymmetry Facebook enjoys with respect to content discoverability and distribution. There is no way for publishers, including politicians and opinion makers, to know that the content they produce and publish on Facebook receives equal treatment.

A simple change in Facebook's algorithms have the power to promote political ideologies, personalities, views - we're talking about being able to reach tens of millions of people in a day. During election periods, having such powers in your hand through an opaque algorithm is the ultimate undemocratic set-up.

Second, where unnamed sources have gone after one individual they should have asked that there be more clear rules, more transparent ways of exercising content censorship. Why not make the content censorship set up a multi-party arrangement?

Third, apropos of comments of politicians being censored or not censored - there is no reason why Facebook or any other social media platform cannot put all the censored information and the metadata for the post/content, in a public repository for everyone to see.

This will serve the purpose of transparency - I will know if the other party is being censored for the same set of standards that are applied to me.

This repository will not be part of the main feeds on Facebook so there is no harm done to public discourse.

There are many more ways of making social media platforms more democratic and open - these include more meaningful ways of sharing ad revenues, being more transparent about what algorithms are doing to our reading habits and so on.

But those crying about Facebook's alleged partisanship aren't talking about any of these ways to fix the problem.

All they seem to want is to appropriate the right to censor their ideological opponents, capture big tech's content filtering processes and continue with what they have been doing on mainstream media: shutting down other voices.

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