Jun 15, 2017

Facebook wants a voice in the debate over its massive influence

Noah Berger / AP

Facebook is taking on questions about its massive influence as an information platform — and, in the process, come across as a responsible actor.

The basics: The company will start to write publicly about how it addresses complicated questions like dealing with terrorist material and the value of its product for democracy. Elliot Schrage, the company's top policy and communications executive, said in a blog post that "even when you're skeptical of our choices, we hope these posts give a better sense of how we approach them — and how seriously we take them."

Why it matters: Facebook is increasingly the subject of criticism for its influence over public discourse. This has played out prominently in conversations about the most recent U.S. election, which was marked by the rise of "fake news," but it's also come up in discussions over online terrorist recruitment and the new industry's troubles. With this project, Facebook is trying to claim a larger place in that debate — and, it appears, have it on its terms.

The message, in one quote:

"We take seriously our responsibility — and accountability — for our impact and influence. We want to broaden that conversation." — Elliot Schrage

What to watch: Schrage listed several "hard questions" that the company could address, including, "How aggressively should social media companies monitor and remove controversial posts and images from their platforms? Who gets to decide what's controversial, especially in a global community with a multitude of cultural norms?" and "Is social media good for democracy?"

The first post in the series, he said, will come out Thursday and tackle issues around terrorism and the internet. That comes as the leaders of Britain and France are looking into the idea of making platform companies legally liable for terrorist recruitment content posted using their products.

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