Social media was recently under fire, a continued streak for major companies, as their accountability for managing disinformation and hate speech was put to the test. Jasmine Razeghi writes on how the enforcement of social media policies remains inconsistent.

Yesterday, Facebook took down a Trump re-election campaign advertisement that featured a Nazi symbol, fueling the fire between social media companies and the President. The advertisement featured an upside-down red triangle, a symbol used by Nazis in order to classify concentration camp prisoners, as a part of its description of “dangerous MOBS of far-left groups.”

Facebook’s spokesperson said that the move was in response to their policy that “prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.” Trump defended the triangle as a part of Antifa. 

Facebook joined Twitter in monitoring the President’s social media posts. On Thursday, Twitter flagged a tweet from Trump and labeled it as “manipulated media”. The video was edited, as the headline and music did not match its original video.

 CNN replied to the President’s tweet with the original report. They then stated, “CNN did cover this story – exactly as it happened. Just as we reported your positions on race (and poll numbers). We’ll continue working with facts rather than tweeting fake videos that exploit innocent children. We invite you to do the same. Be better.”

Facebook Remains Inconsistent

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was recently under fire for his refusal to remove a post by Donald Trump that threatened to shoot looters during the George Floyd protests. Facebook employees, congress members, and the American public all slammed Zuckerberg and his neglect of managing hate speech on the popular social media platform. 

Even though there was a large amount of backlash, Facebook cited its refusal to remove the President’s post as the preservation of “free expression”. Zuckerberg also noted that the post had the potential to warn civilians of the possibility of government violence during the ongoing protests. 

Holding Social Media Accountable

On June 18th, Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, leader of the House Foreign Affairs Committee,  released a report card for top social media sites, a follow up from his initial request for Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube (Google) to address the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and other propaganda outlets that give a platform for disinformation.  

McCaul initially contacted these three major social media companies in March of this year. “The Chinese Communist Party has weaponized American social media platforms to push their disinformation and promote their propaganda. The solution is simple – de-platform CCP officials and propagandists who consistently spread lies,” stated Rep. McCaul. After months of contact, the congressman noted that there has been minor progress, but these social media companies still have a lot of work to do. 

Report Card: Twitter

With the lowest grade of a D- among the three companies, Twitter made no progress in de-platforming CCP or other propaganda sources. McCaul noted that Twitter is the “most heavily abused by the CCP,” in his summary statement released by the GOP Foreign Affairs Committee.  

While the company was recognized for its effort in fact-checking policies for truthfulness, the social media outlet failed to label propaganda and state-funded outlets, block CCP officials, and state-funded propaganda outlets from having verified accounts and remove CCP propaganda and disinformation. 

Report Card: YouTube (Google)

With the second-worst grade of C-, YouTube has labeled propaganda and state-funded outlets. However, it was inconsistent. An example of the inconsistency was while there have been labels on videos that are viewed through a desktop or laptop, the label does not appear on videos viewed through a mobile device. 

The Foreign Affairs Committee recognized the company for its fact-checking and labeling but recognized that YouTube (Google) still fails to block these CCP accounts from verification. There is also a lack of comprehensive removal of false information. The inconsistencies of YouTube have made its performance “insufficient” to the GOP House Committee. 

Report Card: Facebook

The social media company faced no competition compared to YouTube or Twitter with a C+ grade from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Committee recognized that Facebook, like YouTube, labeled CCP propaganda and state-funded outlets in addition to their fact-checking policies.

However, since Facebook has not taken down any of the accounts that spread disinformation, the committee feels that the social media company’s actions did not meet standards. McCaul said that Facebook, like YouTube and Twitter, did little to maintain the spread of disinformation. 

Congress Slams Facebook

Just last week, Congress members including Emmanuel Cleaver, Barbara Lee, Jahana Hayes, Katie Porter, and Ayanna Pressley among others wrote to the CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg and demanded he addresses the company’s inability to address hate-speech and paid political disinformation on the social media platform.

Rep. Cleaver, who led the letter, slammed Facebook yesterday on Twitter. “Facebook’s new policy doesn’t go nearly far enough in addressing the disinformation & political manipulation occurring on their platform,” he tweeted. He made it clear that without combating disinformation, threats to democracy will continue around the world. “Congress cannot stand for any half-hearted attempts to address these serious flaws,” he wrote.

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