Social networks to set societal standards?

Following on from Chris’ post on the presentation of self in social media which discussed self-censorship when sharing online, the past week has seen a wider discussion about what role the social network providers themselves should play in censorship. In particular Facebook has come under flack for not removing groups that are about Holocaust Denial though it will happily remove more and less controversial content.

The initial request seems to have come from Brian Cuban in an open letter to Facebook chief, Mark Zuckerburg, in which he asks for the removal of such groups and points out that:

By allowing these groups whether they number 1 or 1000, Facebook is not promoting open discussion of  a controversial issue.  It is  promoting and encouraging hatred towards ethnic and religious groups, nothing more.

Facebook has recently banned a group called the Isle of Man KKK as it clearly violated the Facebook Terms of Service, particularly the bit that says:

You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.

Which you would think would also cover the contents of groups such as ‘Holocaust: A Series of Lies,’ and ‘Holocaust is a Holohoax’, for this is organisation that also well know for banning pictures of breast feeding women, so a blanket approach to enforcement is not beyond them. However according to an interview on CNN with a Facebook representative the groups remain because while the company agrees that the pages are offensive and objectionable, it believes that people have the right to discuss such ideas on its pages.

The question here is should we be looking to the platform providers to dictate what topics we are allowed to talk about on their sites. Perhaps for Facebook it is more of an issue as it seems to be determined to own the content we happily and often haphazardly upload which I suppose might leave it at the risk of potentially being sued as both owner and publisher of any salacious material. Alan Patrick over at Broadstuff has an excellent overview on the implications the decision not to ban the groups as yet on the freedom of speech.

And if you have time I recommend you pop over to Newsweek to read its article post on Facebook’s Porn Cops

Also posted over at Clicking & Screaming

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