Hey. Hello. It’s nice to see you out, Mr. Zuckerberg. It’s been an exciting year for all of us, hasn’t it? I remember last year, when your site was accused of having an “anti-Conservative” bias by former contractors:
““Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” said the former curator. This individual asked to remain anonymous, citing fear of retribution from the company. The former curator is politically conservative, one of a very small handful of curators with such views on the trending team. “I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”
This was a small part of Facebook’s response:
“We are proud that, in 2015, the US election was the most talked-about subject on Facebook, and we want to encourage that robust political discussion from all sides. “
We, as Facebook users, were happy to see that response. Now, if you truly want to encourage the kind of discussion, outreach, organizing and advocacy that occurs on Facebook, please take our Constitutional protections seriously. When the new administration takes office, we will, for the first time, have elected someone with the known power to search and record all of our conversations.The Bush Administration massively increased the NSA’s abilities, but it was not until 2013 that we learned the scope of surveillance programs put in place to fight terror. And the Obama Administration continued to use them, but those facts were learned only after both of them had been elected. Many entities have warned us about how dangerous these tools are, and now we will have a true test that pits our robust speech rights against an executive who does not seem to value them at all. And Facebook, in its infancy during the first decade of this century, has gained a huge role in our national discourse. We have been emboldened to use its platforms to organize and speak out. Will our comments here gain sudden, legal significance? Will the jokes and comments and fears people have expressed about Donald Trump be used to label and track dissidents? Will you unquestioningly yield to police requests without warrants when they ask for someone’s page or content to be deleted or withheld?
We citizens have had the luxury of being able to speak freely, without fear of violence or arrest when we post things about our government that are funny, or gross, or even openly insulting. Most of us have lived our entire lives without fear of being persecuted for our ideas and expressions.
And now we have elected Donald Trump. A man who has participated in 4,000 lawsuits, and untold numbers of cease and desist letters, threats, and other less easily counted types of activity hostile to the First Amendment.
What responsibility do you think you bear, Mr Zuckerberg, for the kind of community that you have helped create? I do not take what I am asking lightly. This is a big, important thing. We have years of our lives on Facebook. We have felt safe there, doing all the things we are guaranteed the right to do.
“In 2015, Facebook received nearly 37,000 requests from law enforcement agencies seeking data on its users. In about 80 percent of those cases, according to company data, it provided information.”
I do not ask for your help in this only on behalf of Americans. Uprisings and revolutions in other countries have been similarly aided by social networking. Because of our liberal speech laws, people have fought tyrants. I beg you, as a California company, to begin creating structures that will protect these digital spaces for activists and organizers all over this country. It is not enough to expect that our country will always be helmed by people who believe in the robust protection of the First Amendment.
We must prepare for the fact that we will be led by a petty and impetuous bully who is bringing an enemies list to the White House.
These are our specific concerns:
Facebook must reassure the activist community that it will never censor or remove content on the basis of its criticism of the administration.
Facebook must begin creating a system for reporting harassment and threats that actually helps victims.
Facebook must create a framework for appropriately complying with police investigations without compromising the rights of users. This framework should be transparent for users who will be notified if information is requested by law enforcement.
Most importantly, Facebook must decide what role you will take going forward. I am not comforted by the decision to try to “fix” the fake news problem. This is not a sufficient response to what has happened this year. A) it’s too late and B) we shouldn’t be training ourselves to be watched over by social networks of loving grace.
By telegraphing your willingness to limit what your users can see and discuss, you are showing the administration that you would rather help control users instead of enabling us. If a person is prevented from sharing fake news, they won’t gain any skills or knowledge from that experience. They will only decide that their peers are being limited by a corporate entity that keeps them from seeing certain stories. And that does not keep anyone from believing those stories. It only drives them underground, where we cannot see what shape they are taking.
Thank you for your attention to this extremely important issue.