The video of the police killing of Philando Castile has cemented Facebook’s increasing role as a primary source of news in the country.
Is there anything wrong with that?
Maybe, argue Joseph Cox and Jason Koebler on Motherboard this afternoon.
Specifically, they’re concerned that the Facebook Live video of a dying Philandro Castile disappeared for a time shortly after it was posted.
“We’re very sorry that the video was inaccessible,” Facebook said in a statement. “It was down to a technical glitch and restored as soon as we were able to investigate.”
Cox and Koebler aren’t necessarily buying that reason and suggest a problem with Facebook as guardian of information .
As Facebook continues to build out its Live video platform, the world’s most popular social network has become the de-facto choice for important, breaking, and controversial videos. Several times, Facebook has blocked political or newsworthy content only to later say that the removal was a “technical glitch” or an “error.”
In April, for instance, Facebook temporarily blocked six pro-Bernie Sanders groups and five groups supporting Filipino politician Rodrigo Duerte. It elected to leave up a video depicting the murder of its videographer, Antonio Perkins, but removed a live video uploaded by ISIS sympathizer Larossi Abballa, who filmed himself after murdering two people in France. Facebook has also removed images of women breastfeeding and images of breast cancer survivors’ mastectomies.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans get their news from social media, and two thirds of Facebook users say they use the site to get news. If Facebook is going to become the middleman that delivers the world’s most popular news events to the masses, technical glitches and erroneous content removals could be devastating to information dissemination efforts.
More importantly, Facebook has become the self-appointed gatekeeper for what is acceptable content to show the public, which is an incredibly important and powerful position to be in. By censoring anything, Facebook has created the expectation that there are rules for using its platform (most would agree that some rules are necessary). But because the public relies on the website so much, Facebook’s rules and judgments have an outsized impact on public debate.