Facebook ramping up censorship, from banning COVID-19 misinformation spreaders to silencing Australian users

The social media giant has received backlash from some users for censoring what they call “free speech”
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Facebook is ramping up censorship across its platform, from silencing COVID-19 misinformation spreaders to banning Australian users from sharing or viewing news content on its site. The decisions have led to backlash from some users.

Numerous changes are coming to the social media giant. The first change comes after Facebook announced a new policy in which it stated that it will ban misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.

With the help of the World Health Organization (WHO), Facebook stated that it intends to “protect people from harmful content and new types of abuse related to COVID-19 and vaccines.”

Facebook announced in its new policy that it also intends to team up with other government health authorities who use the platform in an effort to curb misinformation.

Earlier this week, Facebook banned Australian politician and Liberal MP Craig Kelly for one week after he posted links on COVID-19 treatments that are not supported by medical regulatory agencies.

In an interview with the Guardian Australia, Kelly said that he objects to the ban, citing it was based with “absolutely no grounds whatsoever.”

He added that “the points are a legitimate point of view. I’m not posting my opinions, I’m posting the opinions of medical experts.”

Facebook, as well as other social media giants like Twitter, have been under fire for various misinformation that has surfaced on their platforms surrounding COVID-19 recently, particularly after former U.S. President Donald Trump posted repeated misinformation during his tenure, leading him to ultimately getting banned from Twitter.

Last month, the Trump admin released a ‘fact’ sheet that detailed the alleged laboratory origin of COVID-19, pointing the blame on China.

After a month-long trip to China to investigate the origins of the virus, the WHO determined that it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus stemmed from a laboratory.

In an effort to combat the numerous conspiracy theories and harmful misinformation, Facebook stated in its new policy that they are working to remove “COVID-19 content that contributes to the risk of real-world harm.”

Facebook is one of the main social media platforms that has been receiving serious backlash for its censorship of what some users call “free speech”. 

Facebook has stated that it will not tolerate any form of hate speech or spread of harmfully false information, such as that of Trump, which the impeachment trial attempted to connect to the riots at Capitol Hill, which led Trump to becoming temporarily suspended from Facebook.

Censorship for Australian users

Facebook is also currently fighting a battle with Australian lawmakers over a newly proposed media law that would force the platform to pay a fee for content from news outlets.

Facebook users and publishers in Australia are being silenced as the platform is no longer allowing them to share any type of news on the platform.

Similarly in Arizona, House Bill 2180 was introduced by lawmakers that asks social media companies such as Facebook to be treated like publishers and be held accountable for the content they allow.

The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg had a conversation with Australian lawmakers last month to discuss the new media laws and express his disagreement with it. However, he was unable to persuade the lawmakers from reversing the new policy.

Notable objections to censorship

The subject of censorship remains controversial around the world. The President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has previously stated that private companies should not have the right to decide who can speak. Obrador launched a campaign against social media censorship last month. 

Following the censorship of Trump on social media platforms last month, a spokesperson of German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed to Reuters that “the right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance.” The spokesperson added that Merkel considered Trump’s suspension “problematic.”

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