Whether he agrees with Alex Jones and the rest of his wacko, my parents are first cousins, X-Files wannabe, black helicopter, tinfoil hat wearing, stupid, dim-witted, thinks pro wrestling is real, lunatics*, or just thinks that they are good for his bottom line, Mark Zuckerberg’s choice to put right wing nut Joel Kaplan in charge of Facebook policy is an indication that Zuckerberg is dangerous and needs to be brought to heel.†
Case in point, when Facebook finally came up with a policy to deal with fabulists fomenting violence, Mark Zuckerberg killed it to make sure that Alex Jones still had a platform.
I am not sure how to handle such issues on social media, but making sure that sociopaths like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandburg are not making what are literally life or death decisions about terrorist groups on the basis of web site engagement seems to me to be a good start:
In April 2019, Facebook was preparing to ban one of the internet’s most notorious spreaders of misinformation and hate, Infowars founder Alex Jones. Then CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally intervened.
Jones had gained infamy for claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre was a “giant hoax,” and that the teenage survivors of the 2018 Parkland shooting were “crisis actors.” But Facebook had found that he was also relentlessly spreading hate against various groups, including Muslims and trans people. That behavior qualified him for expulsion from the social network under the company’s policies for “dangerous individuals and organizations,” which required Facebook to also remove any content that expressed “praise or support” for them.
But Zuckerberg didn’t consider the Infowars founder to be a hate figure, according to a person familiar with the decision, so he overruled his own internal experts and opened a gaping loophole: Facebook would permanently ban Jones and his company — but would not touch posts of praise and support for them from other Facebook users. This meant that Jones’ legions of followers could continue to share his lies across the world’s largest social network.
“Mark personally didn’t like the punishment, so he changed the rules,” a former policy employee told BuzzFeed News, noting that the original rule had already been in use and represented the product of untold hours of work between multiple teams and experts.
Zuckerberg’s “more nuanced policy” set off a cascading effect, the two former employees said, which delayed the company’s efforts to remove right-wing militant organizations such as the Oath Keepers, which were involved the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. It is also a case study in Facebook’s willingness to change its rules to placate America’s right wing and avoid political backlash.
Internal documents obtained by BuzzFeed News and interviews with 14 current and former employees show how the company’s policy team — guided by Joel Kaplan, the vice president of global public policy, and Zuckerberg’s whims — has exerted outsize influence while obstructing content moderation decisions, stymieing product rollouts, and intervening on behalf of popular conservative figures who have violated Facebook’s rules.
In December, a former core data scientist wrote a memo titled, “Political Influences on Content Policy.” Seen by BuzzFeed News, the memo stated that Kaplan’s policy team “regularly protects powerful constituencies” and listed several examples, including: removing penalties for misinformation from right-wing pages, blunting attempts to improve content quality in News Feed, and briefly blocking a proposal to stop recommending political groups ahead of the US election.
An integrity researcher who worked on Facebook’s efforts to protect the democratic process and rein in radicalization said the company caused direct harm to users by rejecting product changes due to concerns of political backlash.
“Out of fears over potential public and policy stakeholder responses, we are knowingly exposing users to risks of integrity,” they wrote in an internal note seen by BuzzFeed News. They quit in August.
Those most affected by Jones’ rhetoric have taken notice, too. Lenny Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah was the youngest victim of the Sandy Hook shooting, called the revelation that Zuckerberg weakened penalties facing the Infowars founder “disheartening, but not surprising.” He said the company had made a promise to do better in dealing with hate and hoaxes following a 2018 letter from HONR Network, his organization for survivors of mass casualty events. Yet Facebook continues to fail to remove harmful content.
“At some point,” Pozner told BuzzFeed News, “Zuckerberg has to be held responsible for his role in allowing his platform to be weaponized and for ensuring that the ludicrous and the dangerous are given equal importance as the factual.”
When Kaplan joined Facebook to lead its DC operation in 2011, he had the connections and pedigree the company needed to court the American right. A former clerk for conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, he served as a White House deputy chief of staff under President George W. Bush after participating in the Brooks Brothers riot during the 2000 Florida presidential election dispute. During a Senate confirmation hearing in 2003 for a post with the Office of Management and Budget, Kaplan was questioned about his role in the event, which sought to stop the tallying of votes during the Florida recount.
Though he initially maintained a low public profile at Facebook, Kaplan — COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Harvard classmate and former boyfriend — was valued by Zuckerberg for his understanding of GOP policymakers and conservative Americans, who the CEO believed were underrepresented by a liberal-leaning leadership team and employee base.
Kaplan is a man who literally pretended to be a Florida resident and then used the threat of violence to shut down vote counting in Miami/Dade County in the 2000 election, but because he went to Harvard (Zuckerberg’s alma mater) and dated Sheryl Sandberg, so because he’s “someone like them”, and because they just ……… don’t ……… care, this individual is Facebook’s VP of global public policy.
That this man has the ear of Mark Zuckerberg says a lot of things about the CEO of Facebook, none of it good.
The most important thing to note here is not that Kaplan is a bad person, but that Zuckerberg is a horrible person, and a horribly dangerous one as well.
*Sorry, I think that I just channeled the con Denis Leary.
†Sorry, I think that I just channeled the non even a bit of a comedian Hillary Clinton.