It’s been said that heavy is the head that wears the crown, and despite some reports Facebook is still the king of social media. With over one billion users, Facebook has the daunting task of trying to keep all of those users happy. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to make every user happy, especially with how fickle the internet in general can be. So it should come as no surprise that Facebook made headlines over the weekend for not just one controversy but two of them.
The first one came when a Norwegian newspaper used the famous image of a young girl during the Vietnam War who had removed all her burning clothes after a Napalm attack. It’s an iconic photo (WARNING: Link contains photo that some may consider graphic) that personified the horrors of the Vietnam War. Facebook had a judgement call to make. Should they let the photo remain or should they remove it since it violates their policy on graphic or explicit images. At first, Facebook removed the photo which led to worldwide outcries of censorship. After much deliberation Facebook reversed their decision with the following statement.
“An image of a naked child would normally be presumed to violate our community standards, and in some countries might even qualify as child pornography,” Facebook said in a statement Friday. “In this case, we recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.”
Their second controversy of the weekend came once again from their trending topics section, this time it revolved around the 15th anniversary of 9/11. It would be no surprise that 9/11 would be a top trending topic over the weekend, however the fallout came from one of the top articles they promoted. The article, entitled “September 11: The Footage that ‘proves bombs were planted in the Twin Towers'”, was from a British tabloid that appears to be just a short step up from the infamous Weekly World News. The conspiracy laden link was eventually removed with Facebook once again releasing another mea culpa.
“We’re aware a hoax article showed up there,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement on Friday, “and as a temporary step to resolving this we’ve removed the topic.”
Due to the massive audience of Facebook it relies on algorithms, and no matter how complex the algorithm might be, it’s not going to be perfect. These are not conscious decisions as much as they are glitches. Even if human curation is restored to the back-end of Facebook mistakes will be made. The problem is our reactions to these mistakes, as they are almost always met with outrage. With a platform that is so ubiquitous mistakes will be made and they will continue to be made. Instead of the weeping and gnashing of teeth, maybe we should reserve our outrage for situations that really deserve it, instead of a website that basically amounts to a water cooler.