Delayed Reactionary Policy Represents Latest Attempt to Stem Controversy, Meant to Preempt Meeting With Australian Government
This week, Facebook announced that it will begin blocking users who have violated its community guidelines from livestreaming videos. The change comes a month after the New Zealand shooter livestreamed his massacre of 50 people on its platform – an event which renewed criticism of Facebook’s inability to control its platform. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has documented Facebook’s reactionary policy changes since November 2007, exposing how the company typically makes improvements following public accusations, scandal, or pressure from governments.
“For over a decade, Facebook’s reactionary policy changes have been the result of its reckless ‘move fast and break things’ mantra. Rather than learning from their mistakes and taking preventative measures, what we have instead is a patchwork of too little, too late attempts made only after public outcry or criticism,” said CEP Executive Director David Ibsen. “Moreover, the company heavily promotes its updated policies in a cynical attempt to deflect criticism and forestall regulation. Facebook’s continuous failures to prevent extremists and terrorists from misusing its platforms have made it quite clear that the company cannot control its own technology and that the era of self-regulation of the tech industry is over.”
Facebook’s policy change and timing suggests that it is attempting to preempt further changes to Facebook Live, whether they are self- or government-driven. The reported change comes on the heels of the Australian Parliament’s passage of legislation that would penalize social media companies for failing to promptly remove violent content from their platforms. It also precedes the Australian government’s April 24 meeting with companies, including Facebook, to strategize an approach to violent and terrorist content online. That same day will also be the company’s first-quarter earnings call, when company officials will have to answer to shareholders.
CEP has previously pointed out Facebook's attempts to get ahead of government regulation. These have included, but are not limited to, CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s PR campaigns to convince regulators that the company is best left to its own standards and enforcement mechanisms, or that the company needs no regulatory standards whatsoever. Of course, Facebook has brushed regulators off for years by simply asserting – without clear evidence – that the company has already implemented the necessary reforms. This latest policy on livestreaming should not be seen as a sincere push to do better, but as a cynical PR move to yet again pull the wool over the government’s, media’s, and public’s eyes.