The Guardian view on Facebook: power without responsibility | Editorial

Guardian Technology 27 May 2019 05:25
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg addresses a conference in California. Photograph: Marcio José Sánchez/AP

Are social media companies responsible for the lies their users tell? Both the obvious answers, “yes” and “no”, are clearly wrong. Complete responsibility is a bad idea, and impossible in practice: even in China, the home of the largest and most sophisticated censorship apparatus on the web, the internet is expected to slow down markedly in the coming weeks under the burden of combing through it to ensure that no references to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre are published. And, as the Chinese example shows, there are also considerable difficulties that arise when any one organisation can decide what counts as truth or falsehood. Yet it can’t be right, either, to say that social media companies have no responsibility to exercise the powers they have to remove obnoxious material from their servers. Videos of murder, child abuse and other horrors are routinely and rightly removed. It will be objected that these are horrible precisely because they are not lies – they record things that really happened. But that doesn’t stand up. It is no defence, either in British law, or in any moral sense, to say that a video of atrocity is faked. If it works as propaganda for jihadis, or for child abusers, it will be censored and its originators punished if that’s possible.

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FacebookCEO Mark ZuckerbergYouTubeCaliforniaMarcio Jos SnchezAP
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