Facebook: Tech Giant or World’s Largest Aggregator?

Guest Post: Ellery Fry, Media Critic

Aligning loyalties should reflect someone’s ethical values.  However, there is a heightened standard for the media and news outlets. This heightened need of loyalties comes to a conflict when looking at Facebook. Facebook considers themselves a tech company but to most users and other critics, they can be argued as the world’s largest media aggregator.  Given this responsibility, Facebook runs into conflicting loyalties on what they should do about censorship. Facebook recently censored the Terror of War Napalm Girl photo from a users post. A Norwegian author who wanted to share the Pulitizer-prize winning photo, by Nick Ut, on the media site was the user who uploaded the image.

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Photo Credit:”The Terror of War by Nick Ut

Facebook however, did not see the photo as artistic, historical or meaningful. Based on Facebook’s initial censorship process and loyalty to provide users with an appropriate feed, the tech company removed the post. Facebook initially saw their loyalty to providing an appropriate feed as more important than conveying the historical and artistic nature of these photos.

After a few days of controversy after the post was taken down, Facebook reinstated the photo and released a statement that stated, “We recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.” Another statement read, “Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal.”

Facebook needs to work on finding a golden mean in their censorship policy. Where can the line be drawn with censorship? What can be argued as artistic? What is obscenity? All of these questions make it hard for Facebook to keep their loyalties uncrossed.

Going forward, Facebook said they will “adjust [their] review mechanisms” to allow this photo to be shared in the future.

Is this enough?

While Facebook considers themselves a tech company, they are increasingly changing the way to world gets its news and media. Espen Egil Hansen – editor-in-chief and chief executive of Aftenposten – called on Zuckerberg to “recognize his role as the ‘the world’s most powerful editor’ of a site that has become a key player in the distribution of news and information globally.” However, by taking on this new role as a faction of the media, Facebook will have to realign its loyalties. Will the “tech” giant change its ways and realign its loyalties to match its role as a member of the media?

Time will tell.

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