Sunday, September 1, 2019

Facebook Is Still Up To Its Old Tricks

Less than two weeks ago, Facebook announced its intention to reform itself to address conservative concerns of bias. Facebook’s changes were in response to an audit led by former Republican Senator Jon Kyl and included an appeals process and more transparency in why content is removed by the social media platform. Now it seems that Facebook is already up to its old tricks.

On Friday, Live Action tweeted that Facebook had flagged a post stating that “abortion is never medically necessary” as “false news.” Facebook’s notification to Live Action notes that “Facebook reduces the distribution of misleading content while showing additional reporting on the same topic” and warns that “pages and websites that repeatedly publish or share misleading content will see their overall distribution reduced, their ability to monetize and advertise removed, and their ability to register as a news Page removed.”

Science Feedback, the organization that fact-checked the Live Action posts, rates the claim that “abortion is never medically necessary” as “inaccurate.” The group, which claims to be nonpartisan, argues that some medical conditions “such as pre-eclampsia, HELLP syndrome and placenta previa, in which abortion could become medically necessary in order to save the life of the mother.” The group also points out that “In order for early delivery to save both the life of mother and child, the fetus first needs to have developed sufficiently that it stands a chance of surviving outside of the womb.”

In an interview with Fox News, Live Action President Lila Rose responded, “We have doctors, OBGYNs, [who are] board-certified, who are also featured in our videos, who are saying the exact same thing. In fact, thousands of doctors agree with Live Action, with me, that abortion is not a medical treatment.”

Earlier this year, American medical leaders representing more than 30,000 doctors signed a letter at The Public Discourse which stated, “It is never necessary to intentionally kill a fetal human being to save a woman’s life.” In 1981, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said, “The fact of the matter is that abortion as a necessity to save the life of the mother is so rare as to be nonexistent.” Even Dr. Alan Guttmacher, a former president of Planned Parenthood, said as far back as 1967, “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.”

Rose also told Fox News that Live Action had contacted Facebook and was told to contact the fact-checkers with its concerns. It seems that, with a difference in opinion between medical professionals on both sides, that Live Action’s case would be a likely candidate for Facebook’s new oversight board. Labeling Live Action as “false news” seems to be an overreaction since the controversy seems to boil down to a quibble between the word’s “never” and “hardly ever.”

Live Action is not the only conservative facing sanction from Facebook, however. I have had recent reports from members of conservative Facebook groups who say that they are still being sent to “Facebook jail” for posts that do not violate Facebook’s community standards. In one example, a meme depicting Charles Manson morphing into Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led to two of my Facebook acquaintances receiving a 24-hour ban. The picture was what those of us in the South would refer to as “tacky,” but it didn’t seem to violate Facebook’s written standards.

One of the Facebook users shared the meme with me along with several screenshots. In violation of Facebook’s promise to be transparent, the notification only says that the post violated community standards and did not give a specific reason. The notification offered the user to “see options” in order to “learn more about this post and see what you can do.” When this option was selected, it led to a blank screen with an exclamation point icon. There was no explanation as to what community standard was violated or how to appeal to the oversight board.

As a private company, Facebook has the right to set its own rules and pick what sort of content to allow on its platform. However, if the social media giants want to be public forums for political discussion, they must do a better job of not discriminating against conservative viewpoints. Otherwise, Facebook will find many of its users migrating to competing platforms that don’t discriminate against conservative content+9. No company, no matter how big, is infallible.

Earlier this month, Facebook made a commitment to enforce its community standards with more fairness. Maybe the company is truly trying to improve how it polices conservative content, but it has a long way to go.
Originally published on The Resurgent

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