Thursday, October 31, 2019

Facebook bans commercial fraud but welcome political lies

                             The Fairy Queen Takes an Airy Drive by Richard Doyle (Metropolitan Museum of Art) 

    If I decide to sell faeries, and buy ads on Facebook, describing the delightful woodland nymphs that could be yours for only $19.99, plus shipping and handling, customers would complain after they received their empty jars, and Facebook will then take down my faerie ads and refuse my money in the future.
    Commercial fraud they understand.
    But when the Republican takes out deceptive ads, filled with distortions and outright lies, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is becoming second only to Rupert Murdoch as a media enabler of the GOP plot against America, has deemed this sort of chicanery to be free speech, and will not turn it away.
    That's wrong, and to show how wrong, another big social media company, Twitter, announced Wednesday that it will refuse all political ads leading up to the 2020 election, rather than try to sort through what is fact and what is fiction. You know you're in trouble when you don't have the high standards exhibited by Twitter.  If they kept to their own rules about hate speech, they'd deactivate the president's account tomorrow.
    As if to underline the ethical correctness of the move, Donald Trump immediately condemned it as "very bad." For him. Very bad for him. Trump knows anything that Twitter's action limits the ability of the Russians to spread deception on his behalf. That isn't good for his re-election chances, which, like his 2016 election, is based on falsehood passing for truth among those who no longer care about the distinction. 
    And in case you're confused, remember the First Amendment relates to the government suppressing speech. Businesses are free to conduct business as they like. When a TV station refuses a political ad because it is morally offensive, or deceptive, that is not a violation of free speech. And as with Twitter, when television has higher ethical standards than you do, you know something is wrong.
    Strange that Facebook would wink at political deception while policing the commercial version, because the former is far, far worse than the latter.
    Really, what is the harm of the faery scam? A bunch of gullible people are out $20, plus shipping and handling. They get an attractive jar, with holes punched in it so the supposed faeries can breath. They learn a lesson, maybe. The country is not harmed.
    Compare that to political fraud, which helps allow the once respected United States of American to be led by a reality TV show host and confirmed fraud. It gives a free hand to the Russians and any nation that cares to to meddle in our elections. Why should politicians be permitted to broadcast literally any lie on Facebook, if they have the bucks to meet the bill? It isn't right.


  1. It’s not that deceptive political ads should be disallowed or at least not allowed by the media provider.
    It’s that there shouldn’t be political ads at all.
    The sad truth about our country is that most voters “learn” about the candidates from advertising rather than doing their own research.
    We are country made of mostly lazy people who won’t take the time to read or learn.
    They follow the lead of our President who has “great and unmatched wisdom” without reading, studying, or listening.

  2. Even more insidious and effective than ads are the FaceBook posts from Trump supporters and other trolls who pass on false or misleading "news" stories printed or broadcast by Breitbart, Fox News or the like.


  3. "When a TV station refuses a political ad because it is morally offensive, or deceptive, that is not a violation of free speech."

    Sure, but my understanding is that under FCC rules, when it comes to political ads, TV stations are limited in what they can and can't refuse to air. Should Facebook be allowed, or required, to exercise more discretion in that regard?

    Sorry to be contrarian, but I see it as problematic, at best, to expect platforms like Facebook to take responsibility for content that anyone can post. That especially holds true for "lies" in political ads. Who decides what's a lie? Trump routinely brands every unflattering or critical bit of information about him as "fake news." Should every politician get to do that? Should Facebook? I'm sure the people who work there are very smart, but I don't know that I want them deciding what can and can't be said about politics, in any context.

    I guess I agree with Les, up to a point. Political ads need to be, if not banned, then reined in by some objective and universally applicable method, like campaign spending limits. Unfortunately that won't happen, because a bunch of jackasses in black robes ruled that money is "free speech."


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