Tuesday, November 28, 2017

$59 Million Can Focus the Mind, Even If You're Facebook

Posted By on Tue, Nov 28, 2017 at 3:59 PM

Facebook is facing the possibility of a $59 million fine if it allows hate speech to remain on its site for more than a week. Not here. In Germany. As a result, the company is adding 500 new contractors to the 700 it already hired to review posts for illegal content.

I did the money math. Give 1,200 workers something like $60,000 in salary and benefits, and it costs Facebook $72 million. Get fined twice and it costs $118 million, and you still haven't dealt with the problem. The new German hires are a no-brainer for Zuckerman & Co.

The situation in Germany doesn't translate easily to the U.S. We have First Amendment protections they don't have in Germany, and given the anonymous interference in our elections, hate speech on Facebook is far from our biggest worry. But the point is, if Facebook can ramp up diligence on its site for fear of losing money in another country, it can do the same kind of thing here because it's the right thing to do—or because it fears people will get pissed enough at the company that they'll take their posts and find a new home at another internet social provider.

At the end of the year, Facebook is planning to roll out a new tool here which will let users find out if they liked or followed Russia-based content over the past few years. The move is a hint of what the company can do if it wants to, but it's not nearly enough. The listing will only show if you had contact with the ads or posts. It won't show the content. Better would be to create pages filled with the actual posts divided by topic so everyone can get a sense of the kind of disinformation they were subjected to. That should be doable. And it still isn't enough if the company doesn't use what it has learned to prevent a similar proliferation of propaganda during the 2018 election cycle. Times a-wastin'. We're already well into the next election cycle.

C'mon, Mark, you're an immensely talented guy surrounded by some of the best cyber talent in the country. Do it right this time. Don't Zuck it up.

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