Facebook Becoming Censorbook?

Facebook is starting to get into trouble as Snapchat consistently leads its main app, Instagram, and Messenger in the App Store rankings. I’ve looked at the app reviews for Facebook and Messenger. Users are complaining the Messenger App is trying too hard to be like Snapchat at the expense of its core features. Facebook users are complaining about getting too many notifications when someone goes live. Facebook wanted to copy Periscope. It was afraid livestreaming would be the next new trend, so it added the feature without thinking of whether it was necessary.

The initial test phase to have celebrities use the Mentions app to go live worked out because people are interested in what the Rock and others are doing. Now that the feature is available for everyday users, it is showing itself to be pointless. There’s rarely a scenario where a person needs to see live coverage of a friend or family member’s life. Day to day activities aren’t exciting. Live streaming on Instagram has even worse implementation because the videos delete immediately after they are filmed. Videos that users don’t want to watch are also difficult to watch. That’s a recipe for failure.

Instagram having users not post much on its app was an advantage because it meant each post was meaningful. Facebook shouldn’t keep adding bells and whistles to change the core function of the app. Whenever Facebook adds a new feature it touts how many people tried the feature as proof it was a success. Many of them are testing it out and then ignoring it after they realize it is useless. Investors don’t question Facebook because it keeps boosting its monthly active usage. This is a vanity metric.

While Facebook stock can continue to rally, eventually investors are going to demand to know the time spent on the apps on a per quarter basis. Social media companies are reluctant to give these metrics out because they show reality. They are a transparent look at the health of the business. Periscope gave out this metric when it first started because the launch was a success. As it has fallen in the app rankings, it stopped giving out the metric since it would make it look bad. This is a new industry, so the important metrics are still being discovered. In the 1990s-tech bubble, investors were valuing tech stocks on eyeballs. Now investors are seeing profits from Facebook, but they aren’t getting the number of time eyeballs spend on it which would help investors measure the health of the business.

The pressure from Snapchat is going to grow after its IPO in 2017. The negative headlines about Facebook will blare simultaneously which should knock the stock down. Facebook has admitted its advertising figures have been wrong on numerous metrics in the past few months. The ad load is also going to reach its limit in 2017 which will decelerate profit growth.

The biggest problem that plagues Facebook is this fake news meme that keeps being reported by the left wing media in America. Fake news is free speech. There is nothing wrong with posting lies online. When Facebook starts to regulate what is true, it is a slippery slope to censorship. Free speech is an important principle which Facebook should stand for. Nobody will have a problem with the new flagging of fake news practice if the news story is clearly false, but there will come a time where something which is controversial is deemed fake news. The internet is a libertarian type place in the sense that users do not approve of censorship. Users will delete their accounts in droves when they realize Facebook is blocking certain politically inconvenient news stories.

The last article I posted discussed how Facebook is working on a censorship tool for the Chinese government to use. This is reprehensible. I mentioned this is a new trend as governments seek to take back control of the news flow to help themselves keep power. The internet has centralized power in the hands of a few major companies like Facebook and Google which makes it easier for governments to crack down on what is being shared. Facebook getting this large has now become a weakness.

The newest story being reported is the German government is considering fining social networks 500,000 euros per day a fake news story is posted. It will allow official and private complainants to flag fake news which the social companies have 24 hours to delete. The law has bipartisan support which means it has a decent chance of being passed. It also calls for social firms to set up offices in the country to respond to flagged content. The websites are going to be held responsible for slander even if it is being done by an individual. Facebook is considered the poster child for fake news, so it would feel the brunt of this legislation. Twitter isn’t even profitable, so it’s questionable how much money Germany can fine it. Snapchat doesn’t have the ability to share news stories from news sources other than the main ones on the app, so this legislation won’t affect it.

The problem with the German legislation is twofold. The first is that the amount of money it can charge Facebook is basically unlimited unless it decides on a threshold for the amount of shares a fake news story gets for it to count as an offense worthy of a fine. Should Facebook be fined for a story that gets 100 shares? It would be costly for Facebook to have to set up offices in every country to deal with this flagging.

YouTube assumes the person flagging content for copyright claims is right at first to avoid legal trouble. YouTube can’t be sued for copyright claims because of this, but it causes abuse in the system where someone can flag a video because they disagree with it. This problem is now coming to Facebook and it’s 10 times worse. Firstly, how can Facebook be responsible for an article written on another website that is shared on its site? Is Facebook going to have to fact-check the entire internet? Secondly, while copyright claims can be confusing, what’s much more confusing is whether a political news story is true or not. Conservatives have begun mocking the term fake news by calling any wrong prediction made by the left ‘fake news.’

The final point on why this is bad is it opens the door for censorship. While the word censorship has been thrown around a lot by right wingers because they disagree with certain bans on Facebook and Twitter, these actions are not censorship because they are being done by private firms. Censorship is when the government limits speech. In this case, Germany limiting the types of posts on Facebook is the definition of censorship. Facebook being a tool for censorship will make users delete their accounts.

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1 Comment

  • Calvin

    December 30, 2016

    And you believe that the government is not in bed with Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc? This is censorship and it is part of the left's agenda. Fake news is an excuse to instill censorship. Which party created more fake news in the past election cycle? Answer - the left.