As we all know, Facebook’s “origin” story tells us that it was born out of a combination of spite, technological brilliance and a desire to want to “move fast and break things.” It is fair to say that today, as Facebook “serves” 3 billion people on earth, it has fully lived up to those initial roots.
Facebook is enormous: as a medium, as a technology company and as an ad platform. It is also enormously controversial, and has been pretty much from day one. When you serve 3 billion people across the globe, it is inevitable that some of your policies will upset someone somewhere.
However, I am here today wondering why Facebook finds it so hard to just figure out what the common sense thing to do is in the face of controversy.
We learned this week that Facebook simply will not police “truthfulness” in political ads. Per the New York Times from Jan. 9, “Defying pressure from Congress, Facebook said on Thursday that it would continue to allow political campaigns to use the site to target advertisements to particular slices of the electorate and that it would not police the truthfulness of the messages sent out.”
According to Bloomberg, U.S. political advertising comprised less than 1% of total ad revenues in 2016 and 2018. Let’s assume it doubles for 2020: that still makes it all but insignificant for Facebook’s revered shareholders who (we assume) want nothing else but growth, profit and dividend.
Political ads also create a pretty crappy advertising environment for both the user and, perhaps more importantly, brand advertisers. Perhaps the crappiness and divisiveness are drivers behind Facebook’s steady decline in consumer use and engagement?
I understand it’s difficult to police all that is thrown onto Facebook’s pages, apparently even when you’re one of the leading AI and programming companies in the world. So why not just ban the whole lot? It would unquestionably make Facebook better, for users, for geo politics and advertisers. It would make the world better. It’s simple. So why on earth not?
At CES this week, a number of artificial intelligence and more specifically artificial human being projects have been launched. For a terrifying look, watch this video regarding Samsung’s Project Neon here.
Deep fakes are here. There are simpleton versions out there now of Nancy Pelosi speaking like she is drunk, or of Obama saying things he never said, and I am sure there are or will be ones that depict bad things about Trump, the Queen, Martin Sorrell and Bambi at some point. Deep fakes already are, and no doubt will be, used for political gain. And as we can see from Samsung, they will become hard, if not impossible to detect.
So, I ask again, why not ban the whole political spectrum of ads, content, posts, etc.? If you can’t beat them, ban them. That way, Facebook cannot be accused of bias for or against any political preference, real or imagined. The haters that are gonna hate will have to go and find new (and hopefully less intrusive) ways to peddle their nonsense.
Plus, and I can’t repeat this enough for a company often accused of doing “anything” in the pursuit of money, it would eliminate a poor and risky advertising environment for the 99% of your ad revenue. Please, Facebook: Explain to me why you won’t do this?