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What Happens When Facebook Controls the News

Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

In the face of criticism over its status as a conduit for harmful misinformation, Facebook has emphasized a commitment to “diverse” viewpoints. Everyone should be able to speak and be heard, and just as importantly for Facebook, be liked and shared. To that end, in countries without media environments as robust as the United States, Facebook has become a primary news source. That includes countries like Myanmar, where an ethnic-cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims is currently underway.

Facebook has already come under fire for taking down posts made by activists documenting the violence. The company is using small countries to test a new organizing method that removes publishers from the primary News Feed. Yesterday, the New York Times showed more examples of how an information ecosystem controlled by Facebook distorts reality.

The paper reports:

“Kalar [an epithet for the Rohingya] are not welcome here because they are violent and they multiply like crazy, with so many wives and children,” he said

Mr. Aye Swe admitted he had never met a Muslim before, adding, “I have to thank Facebook because it is giving me the true information in Myanmar.”

Social media messaging has driven much of the rage in Myanmar. Though widespread access to cellphones only started a few years ago, mobile penetration is now about 90 percent. For many people, Facebook is their only source of news, and they have little experience in sifting fake news from credible reporting.

The filter bubble is now a key factor in propaganda and genocide.

What Happens When Facebook Controls the News