In a previous career, Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs and Communication Nick Clegg was a politician who led a party and served for five years as Britain’s deputy prime minister.
As Spain’s leading daily El Pais observed in an interview with Clegg, posted on its website, he “fought against Brexit and lost” – and has now “exchanged the House of Commons for California.”
Some observers might have wondered at the time why the tech giant would go to that particular pool of talent to hire an executive. And they may be getting their answer now, as Clegg is employing some distinctly political acrobatics to present Facebook in as complying with pressure to censor content on its platform – and at the same time, as reluctant, if not resistant to the idea.
During the interview, Clegg asserted that Facebook is not the internet police, and should not be given that role.
That will come as a surprise to many who have had their pages or accounts suspended or banned. Much of that activity on the part of the company has been happening as Facebook is clearly coming under political and media pressure to police content and censor speech allowed on its platform.
However, these demands run deeper – essentially, for Facebook to editorialize content by making a judgment on what’s true or false. And Facebook does that, as Clegg admits, about various “fact-checking” partnerships declaratively meant to suppress disinformation and fake news.
However, the demand made of the giant seems to be to become the absolute arbiter of truth for its 2.4 billion users, and that’s something the company seems to be unconformable with, at least for the time being.
“We can’t be a policeman on the internet saying what is acceptable or what is absolutely true. The freedom to say stupid things is the freedom of an open society,” said Clegg.
With perhaps too much ease, mainstream outlets attack to this, the issue of fake news, hate speech, and other 2019 buzzwords – together with a separate one, which is the staggering amount of personal user data that Facebook has accumulated, and the way this data is used and misused.
Back on the issue of preventing Facebook from becoming a platform for “election meddling,” Clegg boasted that the company did even more than the EU asked it ahead of last spring’s elections, which saw the bloc put additional pressure on social media giants to “self-regulate – or else.”