Facebook's defense for allowing InfoWars and 'fake news' — It's Analysis 🤷

Would they allow a news item that “proved” the holocaust was a hoax? Would that be considered news, or a valid alternative view or opinion? I would hope not. And if that’s not allowed, then Sandy Hook denialism shoudn’t be considered valid news.


We’re not talking about borderline cases here. Infowars and such are clearly fake news distributors. There is no shades of grey with these guys. If Facebook isn’t prepared to remove these obvious ones, then it shows they have no commitment to fixing the problem.


Create fake batshit crazy paralell realities masquerading as “news” and “opinion” when critiqued because the morons that concoct it prey on the viciously stupid, so you can cry “bias! Bias! They are out to silence us because we are conservative!” when people point out all the bullshit.

Rinse, repeat.

Even more evil and insidious when you rule congress, 1600 pennsylvania avenue, and soon the supreme court.

The only thing under attack is reason, commonsense, and reality. Fuck this noise. This is how you make a kakistocracy.


For all of human history, no one had the slightest problem with ignoring crank assholes like Jones; it was correctly taken for granted that no one needed to hear it. But now Facebook and Twitter – holders of approximately 0% of the world’s news experience – are here to lecture us all on how behaving like every previous media outlet in history is physically impossible, and also an affront to civilisation that would definitely crack society apart like an egg.

How about this: Fuck Off, Facebook. It’s not complicated. It’s not nuanced. You sit someone with a high school diploma or better in front of a computer, and when they see a page that is batshit lies or blatant hatemongering, they click “delete”, and if anyone asks about it, you remind them you can do whatever the fuck you like, and you don’t have time for their shit.

Oh, your shareholders might not like that? Tell me, do they lurve it when people see their precious company as a toxic beacon of evil, and your best and only response is to stand there drooling apologetically with your thumb up your butt? Are you sure they don’t want their highly-paid executives to, you know, take a decision once in a while? Also, who is your biggest shareholder again?


Fox news.


And yet the boingboing store has a few courses for sale on optimizing Facebook for business and advertising. Come on boingboing, drop Facebook.


The real rule here is, I assume, that is you have enough followers you are untouchable because there is too much profit at stake for facebook. Only minor infringers get banned. But exactly how many followers do you need before you can start spreading fake news with impunity?

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That’s in addition to the nature of news being driven by collecting a fee from advertisers by attracting traffic. That means being more divisive, lavishly pro-corporations, and putting opinion pieces above actual news articles Because they can be geared to draw traffic/ratings.

Fox News certainly set the standard and continues to be #1 in legitimized sources that are weaponizing “analysis” for profit.

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Now I must gouge out my eyes.


Fulminating and foaming at the mouth aside, while we can all agree that InfoWars is shit, are you really asking for Facebook to arbitrate all of the content that appears on its website? I.e., to become an official censor for communication involving however many billion (transnational) users it covers? Doesn’t this strike you as a fundamental problem? I.e., exactly a violation of basic free speech norms? Who is going to set these norms? Are you sure you will like the norms they set? What else should we ban? TERFs? 9/11 truthers?

What leg will you stand on, next time you go and suggest that we need to call our Congressperson and urge them to vote for net neutrality, because the Internet belongs to everyone, etc., etc.?

Facebook is a problem because it took over the space of blogs and other distributed content. If we still lived in that world (and we do - people are still free to type in ‘infowars.com’ into their browser), would you be arguing that there should be some official censor shutting down infowars.com, refusing it domain name service, etc.?

It would have been nice if this post approached any of these issues as if they were serious problems (which they are, as Facebook pointed out in its original tweet) instead of copying a bunch of useless tweets.

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Enough that you’re willing to pay Facebook to overcome their algorithm’s intense desire to prevent everyone who follows you from seeing your posts.

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It’s weird that people have to be so ideologically committed even when analysing news – this concept of “fake news” is harmful not just because it causes mistrust in the media, but because it eventually erodes useful scepticism of all media.

Journalists have lied, exaggerated, been bribed, and been caught doing it, long before the age of the internet.

There’s a “deep problem” of news , and indeed, involving facts, and that is that facts change, and then also that reporting on facts tends to be seriously affected by the observer of the facts.

The same moves people seem to be in favour of here are quite similar to the kind Donald Trump wants himself – he has often stated that he wants to amend libel laws to crack down on newspapers. Now, there’s the distinction that he would likely use it to promote the kind of news about himself he wants out there, like any good government propagandist, but we face a novel challenge with Facebook and social media in general, in that they hold disproportionate power, have insane amounts of data they can analyse and weaponize, so it’s not like it’s a good idea for them to decide to censor sites that promote news and opinions – even stupid ones.

Why? Because in being exposed to something “batshit crazy” you still might find something that challenges your own point of view – it’s not all bad to have conspiracy theorists in the mix, because there are real conspiracies, and we shouldn’t be naive about that. They will be wrong most of the time, but that’s the price you pay for having people with different ideological and psychological frameworks.

Don’t get me wrong. Alex Jones has said horrendous, unforgivable things. But I think the price we pay for letting companies as powerful as Facebook start wading into the censorship game is much more dangerous that leaving Jones to ramble on.

My other observation is that BoingBoing used to be a place where we’d get a lot of concerns expressed about chilling effects – whether it was by big government, or by big corporations (often abusing, say, copyright and patent law) – it appears to me that something has change…?

And should a company like Facebook, with all it’s data crunching power, be the one to guide the narrative? It’s probably more powerful than the American government on this front…

It’s a really novel problem, and very good observation about distributed content, I hadn’t thought of that…

…or maybe they’d go back to email, which is where I received semi-regular doses of Islamophobia, anti-Obama memes, and “remember the good ol’ days when kids sucked it up and didn’t cry when they got a whoopin’” nostalgia.

I dare you to find one positive thing about allowing someone to spread blatant lies the way InforWars does. Conspiracy theories are not useful, they’re dangerous. They can quickly beguile people into believing that any evidence presented in opposition to the conspiracy theory is just more evidence of the conspiracy itself. Even the most “harmless” theories, like flat earthers or NASA faking the moon landing, instill unwarranted distrust in our public institutions, and damage our ability to operate on a shared objective reality. When you start telling a trusting populace that all of the Sandy Hook parents are just crisis actors and the whole thing was a false flag to justify stealing your guns, that’s not a “different ideological framework”. That’s sociopathy. And yes, there are genuine conspiracies in the world. But spreading falsehoods and bullshit and calling it a “conspiracy” does nothing to educate the populace in how to detect actual conspiracies. It just blunts the impact of uncovering them, and warps people’s notions of what sound evidence or trusted sources of information look like. Conspiracy theories are a tool used by people who operate in bad faith to undermine the public’s ability to see those very same people for what they are.

At the rate things are going, though, I suspect Jones will descend into full-on Holocaust denial before the year is out. Maybe that’ll actually raise some eyebrows.


It’s also important to point out the distinction between a crank and a charlatan as made by Charles Pierce in his book “Idiot America”:

The American crank is one of the great by-products of the American experiment. The country was founded on untested, radical ideas…The American crank stood alone, a pioneer gazing at the frontier of his own mind the way the actual pioneers looked out over the prairie…American cranks did not seek out respectable opinion. It had to come to them…As the margins (of respectability) moved, the cranks either found their place within the new boundaries they’d helped to devise, or moved even further out, and began their work anew. That was their essential value. That was what made them purely American cranks. The country was designed to be an ongoing and evolving experiment. The American crank sensed this more deeply than did most of the rest of the country.

And so there is some value in the nutter with a “different ideological and psychological framework.” But some cranks are also accomplished BS artists who get addicted to the fame and attention and money to the point where it doesn’t matter whether they believe whatever woo and conspiracy theories they’re selling. Then they become charlatans. Pierce again:

A charlatan is a crank with a book deal and a radio program and a suit in federal court. A charlatan succeeds only in Idiot America. A charlatan is a crank who succeeds too well. A charlatan is a crank who’s sold out.

Alex Jones is a charlatan, and like all charlatans he can do terrible damage if useful idiots think he deserves a fair hearing because of “free speech.”


That’s not the point. Of course Alex Jones is stupid and dangerous. The problem is you are asking for someone else to be the arbiter of what is eliminated because it is “stupid” and “dangerous”, terms which are not clearly defined or defineable.

We would all love to have a God out there looking after us, who could whisk away all the stupid troglodytes we don’t like. The problem is we don’t get a benevolent God who will only do the right thing, we get a pie-handed megacorporation - the same fucking people who, remember, you were likely fulminating about yesterday in some Cambridge Analytica thread. THESE are the people you want to give the power and the duty to censor? Really?

Again, although Alex Jones puts the “kak” in kakistocracy, attempting to prevent idiots like him from speaking is not worth suffering the yoke of an official censor, especially when run by a for-profit multinational corporation.

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Meh. Show Infowars in vox pop trending results, but put an obvious icon beside it that this is not reputable news. And shut down the troll farms gaming the trending results.

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That’s an acceptable alternative. If, as it seems is the case, FB doesn’t want to avail of itself of its right not to give charlatans and hatemongers a platform, labelling and effectively quarantining InfoWars and similar outlets as such should do the job well enough (especially if combined with easy-to-use per account blocking functionality).

But if Facebook is going to let it stay up in the news feed as generic “analysis” then they’re not “supporting free speech” but rather showing that they have absolutely no standards beyond increasing MAU counts and shareholder value.

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