WASHINGTON – First they came for Infowars, Alex Jones’ controversial but popular website.
Then they came for Fox News – the No. 1 cable news channel in America.
Not just Google and Facebook, whose algorithms favor the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, CBS and NBC News that align with their hyper-progressive politics and worldview. But on Wednesday unidentified “reporters” challenged Facebook executives for “working with” Fox News while claiming “to limit the spread of false news.”
The highly charged exchanged took place at a forum in which Facebook executives were attempting to promote their video-on-demand service at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills.
The issue? The very presence of sites like Infowars and Fox News being permitted on the social network’s platform – one in which Americans get much of their news.
The fireworks began when Fidji Simo, Facebook’s vice president of video, was asked about why the company allows posts from sites like Infowars on the largest social media forum in the world.
Simo’s response confirmed Facebook actively limits distribution of content from sites like Infowars, but that wasn’t enough to appease competing media representatives who object to conservative content even being permitted on such forums.
“To be totally transparent, I find Infowars to be absolutely atrocious,” Simo replied in a heated back-and-forth between the execs and media captured by Entertainment Weekly. “That being said, we have the hard job of balancing freedom of expression and safety. So, the way we navigate that is we think there’s a pretty big difference between what is allowed on Facebook and what gets distribution. So what we’re trying to do is make it so that if you are saying something that’s untrue on Facebook – you’re allowed to say it as long as you’re an authentic person and you adhere to our community standards – but we’re trying to make it so it doesn’t get that much distribution .… We don’t always get it right, as you can imagine, it’s very complicated, but that’s sort of our principle for dealing with information.”
Simo also explained Facebook’s determinations about what content is permitted and what is limited or banned depends on what unnamed “fact checkers” say and complaints from Facebook’s audience.
“When we have something that we think – that a fact checker has told is probably not true, or a lot of our audience is telling us is not true, we just limit distribution,” Fido said. “We tell our algorithms that this is probably not something we want to see distributed widely. So that’s one way. Another way, a lot of how misinformation spreads, is by people sharing the content. … We actually pop up a module that says, ‘Hey you’re about to share something our fact checker thinks is inaccurate, you may not want to do that.’ That decreases distribution very dramatically, north of 80 percent, that’s very effective at reducing the spread of it.”
But that didn’t appease the “reporters” out for banning even the most popular cable news channel in the country from using Facebook.
“One of the most prominent organizations you’re working with is Fox News, and they’re sort of incorrigible about proliferating a lot of misinformation,” said the unnamed critic. “Can you speak to your reasoning behind that? Why would you want to work with an organization like that when, as you said, you’re trying to limit the spread of false information?”
Rick Van Veen, head of global creative strategy at Facebook, jumped in: “Yeah, well, given that we have limited time. I’d like to keep it – Fidji and I don’t lead the news organization. Campbell Brown leads that…”
Another reporter jumped in demanding: “Answer the question!”
“We have limited time …” responded Van Veen.
“We’ll give you time!” shouted another reporter.
Simo said, “We have a range of new shows we’re presenting …”
“But Fox News is still on every day, including the weekends on this programming list,” shot back another reporter.
“So is CNN …” said Simo.
That prompted laughter by the media gaggle, presumably because they don’t think CNN and Fox News are in the same league when it comes to accuracy.
“We are really trying to show a range of programming that shows the range of the political spectrum,” explained Simo.
The strange exchange in which representatives of media that compete with Fox News argued for its outright censorship came in a tough day for Facebook in which the company lost $16.8 billion in value in trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange, while shareholders in the company drew up plans for dumping Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. The plummeting stock price wiped out as much as $150 billion in market capitalization and erased the stock’s gains since April.
Reader comments on the reports were coming in fast and furiously.
One reader had this to say: “These idiots may not like the opinions Fox News has to offer, but their hard news division is among the most accurate in the business, if not the most accurate. CNN is not news anymore. It’s just a network where every Trump conspiracy theory is treated as something legitimate.”
Another offered: “This has less to do with rigging news results as it does rigging our elections. Everything Trump, Hannity, Tucker or Alex Jones says is twisted into ‘hate speech’ by the globalist psycho left in an attempt to repress 100 million U. S. citizens from self-determination. It wont be long before google is sold off into a million pieces. A Democratic Republic can not survive with technocratic authoritarians like Google and Facebook wielding the powers they do.”
“Facebook can’t die soon enough,” posted another. “It screwed up the culture and promoted narcissism under the guise of social interaction. It coarsened our culture and it is the Jerry Springer of social interaction. It has pitted Americans against each other by choosing sides, restricting free speech and censoring those with a different point of view. Consider yourself lucky if you never drank the Kool-aid and signed up to post your whole life it detail to be used against you by others somewhere down the line. Die Facebook, Die!”