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Focusing On the Trump Ban Is Missing the Point: Facebook’s Business Model Is Incompatible With Democracy and Human Rights

WASHINGTON -

Today, the Facebook Oversight Board largely upheld the company’s ban on Donald Trump, while cautioning that it was “not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.” Digital rights group Fight for the Future issued the following statement, which can be attributed to the groups director, Evan Greer (she/her):

"Facebook's surveillance capitalist business model is fundamentally incompatible with human rights. And its monopoly power is fundamentally incompatible with democracy and freedom of expression. When we focus on these individual, high profile moderation decisions like the Trump ban, we are utterly missing the point. Big Tech's harms are rooted in their practices of data harvesting and algorithmic manipulation. The vast majority of people who are silenced by Big Tech platform censorship are not former Presidents or celebrities, they are marginalized people, particularly sex workers and politically active Muslims who live outside the U.S. We can go back and forth all day about where the lines should be drawn, but simply demanding more and faster removal of content will not address the very real harms we are seeing. It’s quite telling that Facebook refused to answer several of the Oversight Board’s questions about its algorithms and actual design decisions. We need to strike at the root of the problem: break Big Tech giants, ban surveillance advertising and non-transparent algorithmic manipulation, and fight for policies that address this parasitic business model while preserving the transformative and democratizing power of the Internet as a powerful tool for social movements working for justice and liberation.

Facebook is actively trying to solidify its monopoly power by pushing for false solutions, like weak privacy legislation that protects their data harvesting business model, and changes to Section 230 that would be devastating for freedom of expression while crushing Facebook’s competition from smaller companies and websites. It’s more important than ever that we look at issues like content moderation and platform power in an intersectional way. The most dangerous thing that could happen right now is if the public accepts the idea that lawmakers should just do “something, anything” about Big Tech. We need thoughtful policies that actually address harms, not more partisan dunking and working of the refs."

Fight for the Future opposes reckless changes to Section 230 that could harm marginalized communities and human rights. We support strong Federal data privacy legislation, robust antitrust enforcement, the restoration of net neutrality. We’ve called for an outright ban on surveillance-based advertising, and immediate industry-wide moratorium on non-transparent forms of algorithmic manipulation of content and newsfeeds. We don’t agree that more aggressive content moderation on its own will address the harms of Big Tech, and we fear that without structural changes, more aggressive platform moderation and content removal will disproportionately harm marginalized people and social movements.

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Fight for the Future is a group of artists, engineers, activists, and technologists who have been behind the largest online protests in human history, channeling Internet outrage into political power to win public interest victories previously thought to be impossible. We fight for a future where technology liberates — not oppresses — us.

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