The whistleblowing act of former employee Frances Haugen has hardly left any room for Facebook to wriggle out, with the social media company’s sanctimony of fighting hate speech lying exposed too. And this is no media sensation, as Haugen has not only passed on the incriminating evidence to The Wall Street Journal and appeared for an interview with “60 Minutes” but also submitted the ‘proof’ to the US authority. In a further indictment of Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica scandal that had surfaced a few years ago, the most popular social media platform has once again been found to access private data of users for commercial (and other?) purposes. The American administration, as much as the US private sector, must seize the opportunity to reconsider their stand that a social media company ought to play an additional role of an adjudicator, overriding the laws of the respective countries where it operates. When given this kind of discretionary power to institutions outside the judiciary, a private entity is bound to abuse it, which Facebook does wantonly in India by targeting Hindus and safeguarding Muslims via its self-styled “third party fact checker” apparatus manned by a communist-jihadi cabal. The duplicitous fact checks rank over and above the notorious algorithm of Facebook that systematically targets conservative ideologues worldwide. Whether the ruling BJP and opposition INC in India, the Democrats and Republicans in the US or the Tories and Labour Party in the UK are equally aggrieved is secondary although it must be added on the issue of partisan conduct that, during the presidential campaign, the American social media companies played the role of the challenger’s force multiplier, which is another violation of the ethics that bind an intermediary.
While Haugen will be a footnote in an anthology of whistleblowers like ‘Deep Throat’ (William Mark Felt), Frank Serpico, Sherron Watkins, Jeffrey Wigand, Daniel Ellsberg, Mordechai Vanunu, Linda Tripp, Julian Assange, Mark Whitacre et al because she has blown the lid off a private company and not an organisation of the state, companies like Twitter and Facebook have assumed such significance in today’s global society, thanks to careless governments, that the latest poster girl has earned herself more respect. Like Assange, however, she may go overboard, as she did while complaining that Facebook had relaxed its strict censorship standards once the US presidential election had concluded. It must once again be asked with what authority the private company acted as police even till November 2020. The funny community standards that all the social media companies boast of mark a flaw in American thinking. Be it the case of violence at Capitol Hill early this year or anti-CAA riots in India in 2019, every affected location had police to avert conflicts that endangered human life. Further, WhatsApp, a service owned by Facebook, had no warnings like “forwarded” on top of messages when it had started. Did users of the mobile application across the world burst into riots in that duration, incited by spam? No. Psychologically, it may be true that people find a message exuding negativity more ‘engaging’, but it is stupid to assume people themselves are not an antidote to provocation. During the formative years of social media, it was observed that there were enough users in the media who would reduce peddlers of fake news to a laughing stock. Therefore, why police and people’s faculty to discern are not considered safeguard enough against violence and why censorship by social media companies should be necessary are questions that must be asked.
Haugen also seems affected by socialist propaganda when she is disturbed by her observation or perception that in every conflict between profit and the public good, her former employer chose the first. It may be noted here that slamming ‘evil corporations’ is a favourite Hollywood narrative. Nobody must have educated the whistleblower with examples from the business world that demonstrate that this greed finds its own counter when, in a free market, a competitor seizes the opportunity to come up with a product that is more concerned about the people. Did not Facebook, by enhancing privacy strictures, throw out of market Orkut, a product of the giant called Google?