Trust – it’s a vital element of any relationship, whether it be a marriage, a business partnership or the relationship between a website and its users. Lose that trust and the relationship is essentially gone.
On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with a small hand-picked group of conservatives to address the ongoing Trending Topics controversy.
While that’s a good first step, Zuckerberg needs to do much more than just meet with a few conservatives. He needs to build a relationship with conservatives and let them know they’re just as welcome as everyone else.
Words are cheap. What we need to see is action — real positive change.
Make no mistake — the issue with Facebook goes much deeper than just Trending Topics.
One of those meeting with Zuckerberg was the Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell. Going into the meeting, he noted (Emphasis added):
“I look forward to sitting down with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook because, as I’ll explain to them, no one knows more about liberal bias in the media than we do. We have been documenting and exposing it for almost 30 years. Facebook has a serious problem. Trust is everything and now conservatives don’t trust them. My hope is that today’s meeting will begin to put concerns to rest.”
After the meeting, he added (Emphasis added):
“I think this was a very productive first meeting. I think Facebook understands there is a problem. And I think that from the very top, there is a genuine desire to resolve it. There were good exchanges and overall, it was cordial. We’ll see how the investigation turns out. There has been a serious issue of trust within the conservative movement about this issue, but everyone in that room, on both sides, wants to see it restored.”
That assumes, however, there was ever any real trust to begin with.
A few of us have spent years documenting Facebook’s actions against conservatives. Yours truly first wrote about Facebook censorship and abuse back in 2011. At that time, Facebook only had some 800 million registered users. That number has doubled in the last five years but the situation has become far worse than anyone could have imagined. Now, the social media giant is seen as the world’s greatest censor and was called the greatest threat to Israel by a former IDF intelligence chief.
“The most dangerous nation in the Middle East acting against Israel is the state of Facebook,” said Amos Yadlin, executive director at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies. “It has a lot more power than anybody who’s operating an armed force.”
That’s a lot of power…
So what does Facebook need to do to build that trust?
For starters, Zuckerberg should reach out to the very people his company has targeted — the conservative bloggers and users who have been subjected to bans based on false or in some cases, forged, reports. He can easily do that through an online forum, but face-to-face meetings can and should be conducted. An apology to those who have been falsely targeted and punished should be the first item on his agenda.
Second, he can train his moderators to recognize the difference between lilac trees and actual pornography. He can also teach them to follow Facebook’s own community standards instead of bending them to meet their liberal and sometimes Islamist worldview.
Third, he can — and should — implement a form of “due process” to ensure that users who get reported are given an opportunity to explain their actions and context. So what if this delays things by a couple hours. Better to get it right than to punish and censor someone based on a false or misleading report.
These, of course, are just a few ideas I think would help build a relationship between Facebook and conservatives, and it would benefit all users of the site, not just those on the right. Whether Zuckerberg decides to follow through is up to him, but he clearly needs to take concrete action and he needs to do it fast.
- Facebook: Saying there are two genders violates community standards, earns user 30-day ban
- Facebook: 2012 Donald Trump campaign button violates rules against nudity
- Facebook: Article about Muslims angry over restaurants’ refusal to serve halal food violates community standards
- ‘Muslim Mafia’ author: Muslims working with Facebook to silence critics of Islam
- Facebook smacks admin of ‘2 Million Bikers to DC’ page for clicking ‘like’