“Facebook has been systemically found on scene and at the scene of the crime.” Congressman Meeks (D-NY) to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook
Pointing out Facebook’s attempts at causing division, their admittance of destructive politics and having a hand in broadcasting misinformation were part of Mr. Meeks’ final words before he yielded his time at a hearing this week. Titled An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sector, the only witness at the hearing was Mark Zuckerberg. Testifying in front of the House Financial Services Committee, it wouldn’t be the only time that day that Zuckerberg would be reminded that Facebook’s actions speak louder than words.
After Mr. Meeks yielded, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) was recognized. Major media outlets, like The Hill, picked up the days’ events, including when Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) grilled the Facebook founder. Posey, who’s been vocal on the subject before, used part of his allotted time (fast forward to 1:04:76) to ask Zuckerberg about Facebook’s latest policies.
Posey began by sharing that he, too, uses Facebook for both work and personal communication. He recognized that Facebook has many benefits as well as many great challenges. Without wasting any more time, he quickly reminded Zuckerberg of a letter he sent earlier this year in response to discovering that Facebook would support censoring and restricting free speech rights. He specifically added that users who shared information about vaccination risk were being targeted. A supporter of vaccinations, Posey stated that he also supports open and frank communication. With regard to vaccinations, he said that that communication should include full informed consent. After offering the latest stats of the US government paying out $4 billion in compensation to those who’ve been injured by liability-free vaccines, Posey got more to the point.
“You testified that you believe in giving people a voice,” Posey said to Zuckerberg. Then began the questioning.
“Is Facebook able to assure us that it will support users’ fair and open discussions and communications related to risks, as well as the benefits, of vaccinations?” Thanking the congressman for the question, Zuckerberg began his reply by claiming that, “We do care deeply about giving people a voice and freedom of expression.” Citing that those were some of the founding values of his company, he then hesitated and offered this.
“…we hear consistently from our community that people want us to stop the spread of misinformation…” Zuckerberg continued and disclosed a strategy that Facebook now employs, which is to focus on misinformation that “has the potential to lead to physical harm or imminent harm.” Zuckerberg went on and stated that health advice, or misleading health advice, was part of that strategy.
Before his time was up, Rep. Posey had a follow-up question to Zuckerberg’s response, “Are you 100% confident that vaccines pose no injury to any person on this planet?”
Citing the “scientific consensus”, Zuckerberg’s reply was, “It is important that people get their vaccines.”
Reminding him of his platform’s promise, of being able to give people a voice, Posey pointedly asked Zuckerberg, “Shouldn’t somebody have the opportunity to express an opinion different from yours?” Reiterating the need for people to be able to have the information necessary to make an informed choice, Posey waited for Zuckerberg’s reply.
“Congressman, I do. And that’s why we don’t stop people from posting on their page something that’s wrong. Or if someone wants to post vaccine…anti-vaccination content…or if they want to join a group where people are discussing that content, we don’t prevent them from doing that. What we do is we don’t go out of our way to make our group recommendation systems try to show people or encourage people to join those groups. We discourage that.”
Zuckerberg continued by sharing a number of different tactics. “If someone is typing into the search results…into the search box something that might lead to anti-vax content, we don’t recommend anti-vax searches to them. If you type in the name of a group exactly, you can get the group. We’re not going to hide it, we’re not going to prevent you from joining it. But we’re not going to recommend or go out of our way to show people content that would encourage people to join those groups. But people can share that content if they want.”
Immediately, Posey replied, “Many of those people who are harmed by this policy are in fact parents of disabled children, and I don’t think we or you should be so quick to turn our backs on them.”
I’m grateful that Congressman Posey is not one of those people turning a blind eye or his back on parents. His past actions speak much louder than anything Zuckerberg has said. After the hearing, I called Posey’s office [(202) 225-3671] to thank* him for taking the short amount of time he had to speak up for the parents. I said that I was one of those parents he defended and that I’ve seen firsthand how difficult Facebook can be when people and groups share valuable information that FB considers anti-vaccine. His staffer said that she’d make sure Rep. Posey got my message.
In his testimony, Zuckerberg made it sound like Facebook is user-friendly for those of us who wish to look up what they deem “anti-vax”. It hasn’t been for a few months now, so I tested that claim a few hours after the hearing to see if anything had changed. What I saw was what I’ve slowly seen take over search box entries. I can’t always go straight to the group or page I’ve typed in like Zuckerberg said I could. And for certain searches, I’m offered a warning and what appears to be government-sponsored pro-vaccine pages instead. Here are just a few snapshots of what information I’m lately forced to sort through.
Vaxxed movie makers had a major announcement last week, so I searched for them next. When I typed in their name, I got the same run around. I had to scroll down the page several times, including past The Gates Foundation link, to find them. I tried to shorten my search to see if that brought the Vaxxed FB page to the top search. No dice again. But I did get a free advertisement for the CDC in the process.
I decided to do one more search, this time on one of my go-to groups’ page that I read frequently, The National Vaccine Information Center. Instead of being the first search, I got the CDC warning again and links to other pages Facebook would rather me go to.
Before calling it quits, I decided to type in one more groups’ name in the Facebook search box: the CDC. Boom. There they were. I didn’t have to search multiple times or scroll past any vaccine hesitancy messages to find them. Facebook made sure it was easy to go straight to their page.
Facebook is making it hard for people to find the truth. They’re meddling with people who use their search box. Last week, Facebook was called out for the meddling they’ve done in other arenas. The company was grilled about some of its shady practices. While not a specific vaccine hearing, I’m glad that Congressmen Posey took a moment of his time last week to put on the record what parents who use Facebook have experienced. Some of their children, including mine, lost their voices post-vaccination. Posey knows that and respects that. But Facebook is working hard to silence those parents and advocates who continue to bravely speak up. Try as they might, it’s going to take more than a little bit of censorship on social media websites to shut us all up.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.
*For those who wish to send a note of thanks, Rep. Posey can be reached here.