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"It feels like Facebook is waiting for someone to die"

July 19 · Issue #168 · View online
The Interface
Thanks to everyone who wrote in yesterday with their thoughts on Facebook and Holocaust denial. I got a record number of emails, and promise to get back to each of you in time. Readers seem roughly split on whether Facebook should ban Holocaust denial on the platform. I still lean toward banning it — Germany banned it, after all, and currently has a functioning democracy. Data wins arguments, folks.
Our weeklong debate over content moderation here began with me asking who these policies are designed to protect. Historically, enabling the maximum amount of speech on Facebook has insulated the company from criticism. The company could, and did, point to the presence of Holocaust deniers as evidence of its rigorously neutral viewpoint. But lately all that free speech, amplified by Facebook’s viral effects, keeps having deadly consequences. The discussion over what to do about it — like Facebook’s belated interventions — is arguably overdue.
Again: who are these policies designed to protect? It’s the thought that came to mind again this afternoon as I read Ben Collins’ story about the families of the Sandy Hook massacre victims. Nelba Márquez-Greene is the mother of 6-year-old Ana Grace, who was killed at the elementary school in 2012. And as such, she has become a target of Alex Jones, Infowars, and their legion of followers, who regularly promote the false idea that the government is behind the shootings.
Márquez-Greene sees the issue from a different angle. For years, she and a group of volunteers who help report false information about the Sandy Hook shooting to Facebook have tried to talk to company officials but have gotten little to no response.
“I think it’s unfortunate that a group or an organization that has such reach — such destructive reach — has been given a platform on a mainstream social media platform like this,” Márquez-Greene said of Infowars. “We know firsthand.”
Set aside for a moment that this mother, still grieving the loss of her child, volunteers her time to reporting conspiracy theories about it on Facebook. Consider instead that she has asked Facebook to talk with them about its content moderation policies — and been rebuffed.
Collins talked to Ryan Graney, who leads a group of volunteers who flag Sandy Hook conspiracy theories. It’s a grim, Sisyphean task:
“There’s no phone number (for victims and their families). It’s just constant reporting,” Graney told NBC News. “There’s no human on the other end of the phone that you can explain to. You just have to keep sending it in and sending it in.”
“They need a dedicated crisis hotline. They need humans,” Graney said. “This is not a black-and-white thing. There are gray areas with human emotions involved. It would make life a lot better for people going through this.”
Yesterday, defending the presence of Holocaust deniers on the platform, Mark Zuckerberg named “giving users a voice” as a core principle. It’s hard not to read about the Sandy Hook families here and note the extent to which they lack any meaningful voice on the platform — while Infowars has gathered nearly 1 million followers.
“It feels like Facebook is waiting for someone to die before something gets done,” Márquez-Greene told Collins. And if that sounds like hyperbole, there are a growing number of people in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and India who will tell you that was exactly the case.

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Facebook to Start Taking Down Posts That Could Lead to Violence
Facebook Let A Notorious Russian Neo-Nazi Profit Off Its Platform For Years
Facebook and Instagram change to crack down on underage children
On a big story like the Helsinki Trump/Putin summit, Google News’ algorithm isn’t up to the task
U.S.-Funded Broadcaster Directed Ads to Americans
How a #MeToo Facebook Group Became a Tool for Harassment
YouTube bans account of parents whose prank videos depicted child abuse
The universe of people trying to deceive journalists keeps expanding, and newsrooms aren’t ready
I Turned On All The Parental Controls On My Phone And Found Bliss
This Bot Tweets Photos and Names of People Who Bought 'Drugs' on Venmo - Motherboard
BBQ Becky, Permit Patty and why the Internet is shaming white people who police black people
Instagram adds AIM-like status indicators to show when your friends are online to DM
Facebook can now sync your Instagram contacts to Messenger
Facebook Apologizes For Giving Mark Zuckerberg A Platform
A Family Reunion, Thanks to Facebook
And finally ...
'Russian spy' Guccifer 2.0 had steamy online affair with former Playboy model and Bond girl Robbin Young
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