Sheryl Sandberg Makes Disingenuous Push To Argue That Only Facebook Has The Power To Stop Bad People Online

from the oh-come-off-it dept

While Twitter is opening up to have the difficult conversation about how content moderation and the open internet should co-exist at a time when the President of the US has inspired an insurrection, Facebook, perhaps not surprisingly, has taken another approach. It's one that is condescendingly stupid, and simultaneously self-serving.

Sheryl Sandberg went public to say both that most of the planning for the invasion of the Capitol was not done on Facebook, and that only Facebook was big enough to prevent such things from happening.

She says:

"I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, and don’t have our standards, and don’t have our transparency."

Even if that's true (and that's unclear, and we'll get back to that...) it's a very short-sighted and silly thing to say. At a time when the company is literally facing two major antitrust cases, to run around trying to argue that you're the only one who can handle this issue is just painfully dumb. On top of that, there's no way that anyone can totally stop people from spreading these messages on any platform, no matter what abilities/standards/transparency you have -- and pretending that your moderation efforts are somehow perfect is the kind of stupid thing that (1) will come back to bite you and (2) is easy to disprove.

In fact, it was quite easy to prove that Sandberg's claims are not even remotely true. The Washington Post has detailed how bogus that claim is:

A growing body of evidence shows Facebook played a much larger role than Sandberg suggested.

The #StopTheSteal hashtag was widely used on the service until Monday, when a search on Facebook reported that 128,000 people were talking about it and in many cases using it to coordinate for the rally, according to Eric Feinberg, a vice president with the Coalition for a Safer Web.

And two dozen Republican Party officials and organizations in at least 12 states posted on Facebook to coordinate bus trips to the rally, according to research by the left-leaning media watchdog group Media Matters for America, which published screenshots of the fliers and memes.

“BUS TRIP to DC … #StoptheSteal. If your passions are running hot and you’re intending to respond to the President’s call for his supporters to descend on DC on Jan 6, LISTEN UP!” wrote the Polk County Republican Party of North Carolina in a Facebook post that is no longer publicly available.

Oooof. Meanwhile, even after Facebook and Sandberg said that Facebook had taken down the militias and that it had the "ability to stop hate," it wasn't difficult for a Buzzfeed reporter to find "Stop the Steal" groups still active!

A search on Facebook for the words "Stop the Steal," a rallying cry that the mob who forced Congress to flee chanted, turned up dozens of places where new plots could be coordinated. There are at least 66 groups dedicated to the slogan, the largest of which has over 14,000 members. That group is private, meaning nonmembers can’t access the content, but its description is unambiguous: “to make aware the issues of fraudulent voting practices and Fraudulent ballot counting. also, to make these issues transparent for all!”

Several of these groups were created after the election. The 14,000-member group was created on Nov. 6. Another, with nearly 10,000 members, was started on Nov. 29, and another that has 8,000 members on Dec. 10.

This is the nature of content moderation. You're always going to make mistakes. Big ones. Small ones. Medium ones. You're going to make mistakes. Pretending that you won't is silly and will backfire. And here it's especially stupid given the circumstances.

I'm saying this as someone who has spent plenty of time in the last week explaining to people why it's silly to blame Facebook for what happened at the Capitol. If people didn't plan on Facebook (and, of course, they did), they would have planned this elsewhere. But, it's just gaslighting people to pretend that Facebook has the power to moderate away all bad behavior, and even dumber to pretend that no such planning happened on your platform. I'm sure that plenty of the planning happened elsewhere, but of course some of it happened on Facebook.

I truly do not understand Facebook's continued failure to comprehend how it, and its senior leadership, keep shooting themselves in the foot time after time.

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Filed Under: content moderation, impossibility, insurrection, policies, sheryl sandberg, stop the steal
Companies: facebook


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 14 Jan 2021 @ 10:54am

    Dear Sheryl:

    If Facebook is our last line of defense between democracy and fascism, we’re all really fucked.

    Sincerely,
    Society in general

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 14 Jan 2021 @ 11:01am

    I read today that Facebook was selling ads for military gear next to extremist content.

    Standards Sheryl... standards...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2021 @ 6:14am

      Re:

      They were selling that gear to those demographics long before they crossed that rubicon. I mean it is kind of like complaining about McDonalds putting an ad about fruit pancakes on the side of a bus when the owner later uses it to deliberately run over a gay pride parade in a terrorist attack. There are a lot of legitimate things to attack Facebook on - stop reaching for the stupid ones.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2021 @ 11:21am

    Well they’re rich, and the people whom’s feet they are shooting are not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 14 Jan 2021 @ 11:22am

    Dear facebook

    You have NO right to do much of anything.
    And you should keep it that way.
    Separating a few groups from overwhelming your site or even using it as a political base, IS your job.
    Democracy is CHOICE. And a part of our gov. has severely decided not to let us have info on their dealing, which makes person upset. Even when asked, they pander and hide from any truth or understanding of WHAT they are trying to do.

    Facebook, you are neither News nor caretaker. You are not there to decide right/wrong, ill or health. You even show your honesty in the adverts you have. You do not need to THINK. You can try to keep Some of us apart or protected, but you have little right to DECIDE truth or fact, except to Show your OPINION on either side.
    If you choose a side, then you are no better then our newspapers and TV OPINIONATED journalism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      crade (profile), 14 Jan 2021 @ 2:01pm

      Re: Dear facebook

      no one decides truth or fact, it exists whether you like it or not, it doesn't matter if you have the right to do something that is impossible. Facebook absolutely has the right to see and acknowledge truth and facts, interpret them and act accordingly as they see fit. Fortunately nothing yet says they need to pretend they can't see what is in front of their faces

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 15 Jan 2021 @ 2:09am

        Re: Re: Dear facebook

        The difficulty tends to Be WHO is telling the truth.
        What IF' trump was trying to do/fix something. REALLY.
        With all the BS flying around our politics, I cant tell which side is doing Anything except paying off the corps, who seem to be PAYING them. And all 3 sides are using OUR MONEY.
        We can see what they have done, but not what they are doing or TRYING to do. and most times I think its just a Bad mitten/tennis game, and Neither side is any different.
        Have either side, in recent history told us what they stand for? NOT REALLY. What they are TRYING to do? NOPE. We have some great ideas about it.

        And if you really want the truth, THIS is not a job that lasts 20-40 years. WE are supposed to change them every few years, to DIFFERENT PEOPLE. But they DO control what you see. they select the person, NOT YOU. Did you see any of the other 1000 people running? I dont think so.
        Most of the people up there, have Fathers and grand fathers and uncles that have been in office. Its a FAMILY thing. and that is NOT what we want. We have to fix things, because THEY WONT.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2021 @ 7:10pm

      Re: Dear facebook

      You do not need to THINK.

      Said every Fascist ever. "Don't think. That's our job. Your job is to follow orders without question."

      If you choose a side, then you are no better then our newspapers and TV OPINIONATED journalism.

      That's literally the problem with the news media today: The fact that they ignore reality and refuse to point out the truth when lies are spread is a major factor in the radicalization and polarization of both parties. They throw away common sense, and engage in false equivalency fallacies, all because they want maximum ratings and ad revenue. To say nothing about the whataboutism the more unscrupulous ones allow and commit themselves. All of this just creates more divisions between people. Convincing themselves that they are in the right because of the lies and deceit that are all they hear in their all encompassing echo chamber.

      Facebook isn't clean here either. Hell, no site online is. The vast majority of them are completely dependent on ad-services and trend prediction algorithms that amount to nothing more than a group of yes-men constantly bombarding people with more of the same echo chamber content in order to boost clicks and ad-revenue. The ones that aren't are small operations that reach too little of an audience to make a dent in the echo chamber. Assuming they are able and willing to try to do so. Occasionally you might see one of them quoted somewhere bigger, but it's a rarity.

      It's truly a sad and dangerous day for democracy that there is no-one willing to speak the truth, save for a few youtubers with a microphone and comedians.

      you have little right to DECIDE truth or fact

      Truth and fact cares not about who states them. They are demonstrably correct by definition. Anyone who repeats the same process used to uncover them will find the same answer regardless of who that person is, and if the same process fails to repeat the same answer, truth and fact self-corrects. It's not a matter of choice.
      Stating otherwise is to perpetuate a falsehood. I.e. Lying.

      People are entitled to their opinions, but for a democracy to endure the truth and the willingness to spread and hear it is a mandatory requirement. One that the US is currently failing to fulfill.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 15 Jan 2021 @ 2:26am

        Re: Re: Dear facebook

        Decide truth or fact.

        Is the comment. Being middle ground isnt easy. Its rather hard to be that way. FB is trying to use fact checking Which I dont mind. They say they are using 3-4 companies, Which is GREAT.
        But being FAIR, is hard also.
        Anyone can speak. And they should be allowed. But also discuss. THERE are things you JUST CANT debate. so you dont. But the things running this country, and making things BAD, tend to all be related. THAT GOLDEN idea from the Reagan era, about TRICKLE DOWN. Makes no sence to anyone.
        The Money in Gov. hasnt been used properly, an its easy to prove. The IRS cant do much against the corps, they dont have the power to even Look and deal with the Paper work. Computers over 15 years old, and 1 Still used from about 1969. They have been killing it along time, piece by piece. And things ARNT getting paid for.
        Lets say it this way.
        1 side dont think we should be paying taxes,and that we should Cut the gov. back as much as possible.
        Which includes all the social agencies. And all the laws and regs that they enforce. from Working hours, and holidays, and Social sec. Basically move us back Before Roosevelt created most of it. With the thinking that After dumping all the regs, CORPS will come back.

        But What will those corps find? Over price materials, over priced power, Water that seems abit BROWN. Those locations we found back in the 70's, we call Superfund sites. are Still there. we asked them to Clean them up.
        Everyone says it the wages in other countries that Keep the corps there. Not is 1 part of a bigger problem, and MORE then just that. USA prices for materials are Allot higher then any other country. Power and Water, and the utilities, Higher. Even the phone service Is more expensive.
        We need to find better ways to do those things WE DID. Even China is getting fed up with all the pollution created by Our corps, and others. Its all being Dumped into the Sea. and floats around to the coastline of China and japan. WE NEED BETTER WAYS. But the USA is so over priced, makeing something costs To much because of the basics.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Thad (profile), 14 Jan 2021 @ 11:43am

    Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says the Capitol Hill riots were not organized on its platform.

    Narrator: They were.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Federico (profile), 15 Jan 2021 @ 10:01am

      Re: Narrator

      I wonder if she's even including WhatsApp and Instagram.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2021 @ 8:17am

        Re: Re: Narrator

        Maybe she meant that the putsch itself although arranged on Facebook and others like Parlet couldn't exactly be called organized when one of the attendees was trampled to death while wearing a "don't tread on me" flag as a cloak. It was clearly /arranged/ but not organized although if you say it wasn't organized you always need a disambiguator.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Jan 2021 @ 12:00pm

    She gonna not let Zucks run it anymore?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jono793 (profile), 14 Jan 2021 @ 5:10pm

      Re:

      I'm increasingly convinced that Sandberg and Zuckerberg's relationship is akin to the relationship between Homelander and Madelyn Stillwell, in Amazon Prime series 'The Boys'.

      (look it up. Also, NSFW)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 14 Jan 2021 @ 12:05pm

    you don't get a gold start just because facebook isn't Trumps favorite way to communicate..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2021 @ 12:18pm

    Sheryl Sandberg implies that Facebook should be made the gatekeeper to the Internet, as how else would Facebook stop bad people from being online.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2021 @ 12:19pm

    She's obviously a bigger and more bias idiot than previously thought! I wonder what she got for airing such ridiculous thoughts?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 14 Jan 2021 @ 1:22pm

      “Bias” is a noun. “Biased” is an adjective. Please learn the difference.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Michael, 14 Jan 2021 @ 3:11pm

        Re:

        This is my 2nd most annoying pet peeve that millennial writers insist on using constantly.

        But the most annoying grammatically incorrect millennial writing tic is "besides the point" instead of the correct "beside the point," which at least one Techdirt author uses far too frequently.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2021 @ 1:28pm

    Facebook, if you are going to act like politicians and legacy industries in public, you need a better act. Thank you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2021 @ 6:09am

      Re:

      Why would they do that when it worked for politicians and legacy industries just fine? They aren't under legal threat for their actions and would get egg on their face as they cannot criticize them on it without criticizing themselves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2021 @ 1:52pm

    I truly do not understand Facebook's continued failure to comprehend how it, and its senior leadership, keep shooting themselves in the foot time after time.

    Well, when you keep firing in the direction of your feet and the only result is that people give you more ammo, comprehension can be difficult.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2021 @ 2:36pm

    I truly do not understand Facebook's continued failure to comprehend how it, and its senior leadership, keep shooting themselves in the foot time after time.

    Well, when it becomes a pattern of behavior, maybe you should acknowledge that this is all a part of the way that the senior leadership wants to run the company. The only part the senior leadership don’t want, is to get caught. Facebook is just like any other greed-motivated company that doesn’t give a fuck about their users. EA, AT&T, Verizon; Facebook deserves to be tossed in the same festering pile as them. Please stop saying “I just don’t understand?!?!” when it’s clear the Facebook leadership just wants to accrue money and power above all else.

    Lucy and the Football. You’re Charlie Brown. Facebook is Lucy.

    Also, I think it absolutely is fair to blame Facebook, and other engagement-above-all-else platforms, for what happened at the Capitol. Letting the Q cult shit ferment, letting far-right conspiracy bullshit run rampant for too long in places like groups and freely accepting advertising from nutjobs like that, and more. The Kenosha Militia Event that got reported hundreds of times but wasn’t taken down and federal authorities were never alerted. The way that they just let Steve Bannon off the hook and never banned him for Bannon calling for Fauci to be beheaded. Did that really just fly over your head?

    Facebook is a greedy, malicious corporation whose leadership doesn’t give a fuck. Please stop pretending that there can ever be a “better” Facebook. You’re just carrying water for them if you do. The corporation and the platform would be better off dead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Beefcake (profile), 14 Jan 2021 @ 7:38pm

    Faceplant, or The Faceplant?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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