By Web Desk
October , Ottawa, ON – Revelations by Facebook whistle blower Frances Haugen that the social media giant magnifies hate and profits of the promotion of hate on its platform should be a wakeup call to lawmakers in Canada and other nations that it and other social media companies must come under government regulation for the sake of public safety and social cohesion. Haugen, a data scientist and a former product manager on Facebook’s civic misinformation team, made these assertions in a 60 Minutes interview this week, and in leaked company documents to the Wall Street Journal.
“Politicians can no longer equivocate about the role that social media plays in promoting hate and racist violence in our society.The Canadian government and governments in other nations must put in place rigorous legislation that regulates Facebook and all other social media platforms as soon as possible to make sure that their businesses don’t continue to turn a blind eye to hate for the sake of profits, and to the detriment of social cohesion and peace,” according to Fareed Khan, Founder of Canadians United Against Hate.
“There was considerable research before Frances Haugen’s revelations about the role that social media played in promoting hate in society, and governments didn’t listen to those calling for actions to regulate online platforms. Her testimony, and the Facebook data that she leaked, now gives legislators more than enough ammunition and justification to implement laws to ensure that social media companies are good corporate citizens, and to make executives at social media companies criminally liable for any decisions that allow their platforms to be used as megaphones to promote hate and white supremacy,” said Khan.
“The executives at these companies don’t seem to care that their platforms are responsible for people getting hurt and killed. Therefore, it’s up to governments to make sure that they aren’t used as a conduit to promote hate and racist violence, that their executives are held legally liable for any transgressions, and are financially penalized commensurate with their revenues if they don’t expunge the voices of hate from their platforms,” Khan stated.
In the documents she leaked Haugen said there was data which showed that Facebook only addressed a small fraction of the hate on its platform despite being “the best” among the social media giants at addressing it. “We estimate that we may action as little as 3-5% of hate and about 6-tenths of 1% of V & I [violence and incitement] on Facebook despite being the best in the world at it,” according to one of the documents from a 2021 study.
A Abacus Data poll released in January this year showed that 93 per cent of Canadians believe that online hate speech and racism are a problem, and 60 per cent believe that the federal government has an obligation to regulate online platforms to prevent them from being used to spread hateful and racist rhetoric.
“For years anti-hate activists and researchers who study social media have been calling for a bigger government role in regulating these companies. Now Ms. Haugen has literally provided governments the ‘smoking gun’ in the hands of the ‘accused’ that justifies the urgent need for governments to act. There can be no more delays given the power these companies have to influence and shape the views of its users and society at large, and the fact that they have already played a big role in instigating hateful, racist violence that has resulted in death,” Khan noted.
He also called attention to recommendations made to the federal government by various organizations that social media platforms and web hosting services be regulated to ensure that they cannot be used to promote hate. Khan noted that the executives who run these companies cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it comes to stopping online hate since they profit from it.
Other than regulating social media platforms to prevent sharing of hateful and racist content, Canadians United Against Hate also recommended that the federal government levy a fee on all social media, web hosting, and web service providers used by Canadians (regardless of whether their headquarters are located outside Canada), with the funds raised to be used to fund partially or in whole a national public education campaign to counter hate, bigotry and racism in Canada