Facebook's new news power is a threat to press freedom



Freedom of the Press Foundation's Trevor Timm has a must-read piece over at CJR about how Facebook's growing monopolistic power over news organizations' traffic + their censorship policies + their new plan to get news orgs to publish directly on the site all adds up to a major threat to press freedom.

What this discussion has missed is perhaps the most crucial element of Facebook's new power: the right to chose between the free expression of ideas or to instead impose censorship when it deems content unworthy. That should worry the public, because when given that power in the past, Facebook has ruled with an iron fist.

The New Yorker was famously banned from Facebook for a short period in 2012 for posting a cartoon with a tiny bit of nudity in it. Breastfeeding photos have been the source of takedowns and controversy. And that's even when they're not censoring other photographs or news commentary by "mistake."

Then there are the hostage negotiations country's governments are increasingly engaging in. Turkey blocked Facebook and Twitter across the entire country just this week because users were sharing a photo that was clearly newsworthy, and vowed to continue blocking it unless the social networks removed it (which they did). Two weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Facebook began censoring images of prophet Muhammad after Turkey made yet more demands.

And what happens when Mark Zuckerberg brings Facebook to China? Will Facebook be just as quick to censor the New York Times posts at the whims of foreign governments as it does for individual users?

"The most concerning element of Facebook's potential new power" [cjr.org]