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Facebook Fired Employee Who Collected Evidence of Potential Political Bias (buzzfeednews.com)
388 points by erentz 76 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 388 comments



As a Facebook Employee who watched this thing unfold:

His arguments and reasoning were edited for tone and posted by others and HR did not take any of that down. He wasn't fired for what he said, but how he said it. His post was vicious and demeaning toward other FB employees. It directly attacked the character and ethical constitution of specific employees in the company.

That said, HR did later revoke open access to some of the specific details he used to make his case (conversations around investigating and escalating user reports). FB gives employees access to much more than most companies, so the sort of things HR made secret would not be visible at most US companies.

Although I think at FB there are many things you can't say, his actual beliefs were not bold or rare. Many people say similar things all the time. But you can't go around attacking people like that.


It wasn't vicious or demeaning. It was rather bluntly showing that senior leadership (Joel Kaplan basically) bends the rules for their political buddies.

He wasn't fired for how he said it. The post was taken down for that. He was fired because he demonstrated that leadership is dishonest. They rewrote norms on the fly to justify firing over normal access to non-user data.


From further down the comments: "robber baron, slaver, and plunderer"

Calling people by those things in a work environment might not be the best strategy to demonstrate process irregularities.


That's how I like to describe Trump. He's not willfully destroying the fabric of our society, he's just prone to process irregularities.


>HR did not take any of it down.

&

>HR did later revoke open access to some of the specific details he used to make his case (conversations around investigating and escalating user reports).

Aren't these essentially identical aside from the timeline?


HR did not take down the reposts (edited for tone) of the fired employee's claims and arguments, including high-level descriptions of specific escalation incidents. HR did remove access to actual "tasks" (similar to email threads at other companies).


So, they didn't remove the post, just access to things he specifically cited (for everybody?) ? I don't mean to split hairs here but could you perhaps elaborate on why they would do that?

Edit: Or at least your opinion on why they would do that.


The reposts were very different in tone and didn't name specific employees or make accusations about intentions or ethics.

I have no opinion about why content was hidden. At nearly any other company the same content would have always been secret.


That kind of sounds like an opinion.

If his cited sources (which presumptively were somewhat important to the point he was making) should (or would have, which may be subjective. I don't know because I'm not a Facebook employee and have no direct knowledge of the now-secret information) have been secret, then it stands to reason that it would have been more difficult for him to make his point.

If that's the case, it sounds like they've changed an entire policy organization-wide to stop more posts like this, or they've made no global policy changes and selectively hidden information that would support his point. Either way I'm curious about this culture of openness and what defines its limits.


But that content is not typically hidden at Facebook? And it's hidden now, precisely when it would provide evidence as to whether or not the alleged executive conduct happened? And you... have no opinion about that? Really?


How confident are you that you know how things work "at nearly any other company?" Is this something that someone told you, or do you have some way of knowing this yourself?


Huh? yes they did. They put it back up for a few hours after he was fired, but it was later removed again.


Don’t know that specific story but the culture at FB is pretty open and people ask hard questions all the time on workplace and at Q&As. So it’s sad to see some people abusing this knowing that not that many companies are open to such internal dialogues. Tragedy of the common.


commons


It’s pretty meta to read it as a single “common” if it was on purpose.


“Common” stock? Maybe it was a joke.


what about the engineer who jumped to his death after a bad review?


Do you have a specific question? It’s tragic obviously and impacted many of us.


(different commenter here)

Of the handful of people I know who work at FB, all of them are super smart and motivated. Half of them have expressed a lot of anxiety, stress, and imposter syndrome to me over their reviews. I’ve seen this at other companies when a project is failing but I hear about it at FB from A players who are working on successful projects. It gives me the impression the managers must be brutal - like they just push harder than other companies and make people feel they aren’t good enough to get more output. These are my impressions as an outsider. Does it seem fair to you?


I think not manager but peers. They are mostly over achievers and somewhat competitive.


Is that because leadership rewards such behavior? I wonder if pressure would be the same If working 12hr days is discouraged and emphasis placed on collaboration and team delivery.

Leadership sets the tone and culture so it's always leadership's fault if culture is toxic.


Re-evaluate life choices if a 400k salary makes you commit suicide? He should have had enough money to do whatever for quite some time. Its tragic that he didn't but there are literally billions of people worse off all around the world and nobody talks about them.


pretty sure it’s more complicated than that eg H1B status means leave the country if you’re fired, and to assume you cannot he stressed about a job or life because you make a nice salary is a very naive take.


What about beloved, famous, and rich actor Robin Williams who hung himself?


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There are quite a few throwaway accounts in this thread claiming to be Facebook employees, arguing different sides of the issue. They can't all be PR. In my experience—and we can confirm this in some cases—people are mostly who they say they are.

Of course manipulation is possible, and bad, but so are insinuations of manipulation without evidence, and the latter are (by every indication I've seen) orders of magnitude more common. That's why the site guidelines ask you not to post like this.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20astroturf&sort=byDat...

In the long run, if manipulation ends up dominating forums like HN, the only real solution is to do what we ought to all be doing anyway: have a culture in which arguments are answered by better arguments. Since that's the only long-term immunity, we might as well develop it now.


Sorry, I was concerned, and didn't intend to violate the guidelines.

Hopefully, a marketplace of ideas will be sufficient in practice here.


Appreciated!


While using throwaway account doesn't necessarily mean the comment is manipulation, I personally have an issue with unsubstantiated comments from anonymous poster with no credible past history on HN.

If I am to take the comment I need something that would give some credibility to it, like having some way to verify the claims or if that is not possible, have a real person that puts their word behind the claim.

There is a reason why it is not possible for anonymous witness to testify in court and the reason is that anonymous person can say whatever they want with no responsibility for their words. It is exactly that responsibility and accountability that gives credibility to the witness.


No question it's suboptimal, but the alternatives have problems too. It's not hard to understand why a legit user would choose to post that way. I can tell you from many years of experience with this that most people turn out to be who they say they are, and readers tend to be off by 10x or more in guessing about this. That may change, but I don't think we're seeing indications of that yet.


I don't agree, and the reason is that posting unsubstantiated, unverifiable claims, anonymously, on a serious topic is tantamount to spreading rumors (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumor).

The damaging power of rumor comes from the fact that you can't tell whether the information is true or not, but you pass it anyway. The act of passing the rumor is already causing damage even if you don't act on the information in any other way.

For you this might seem innocuous but many people have been completely broken by a simple rumor and that's why I have always been taught that spreading or allowing to spread rumors is always a bad thing to do.


Often people want to post something about the situation at their job, and they're afraid to do so with their regular account. Such comments contain real information based on inside knowledge, the kind that HN readers love to get access to. That's the opposite of rumors. Indeed those comments frequently contain more and better information than would ever appear under the regular account.

It's also true that such comments can be counterfeited, which is where this gets complicated. But HN would be worse off without that class of comments. It's a legit use for throwaway accounts.

Are they verifiable? I don't think that's the best standard to apply to internet comments. The vast majority aren't. You have to assess credibility, but I wouldn't call that verification. In the case of a throwaway account, the only public information for assessing credibility is the content of the comments themselves, but that's not all that different from the usual situation on the internet. Admins have it a bit easier because there is other data we can also look at.


If I were a facebook employee commenting on this I certainly wouldn’t use my main account.


Which is part of why this seems a hard problem: how do we distinguish the sincere and informative comments from the insincere and manipulative, in the short window it matters most?

If we can't, then can we proactively discourage bad actors a different way? Or somehow sufficiently right harm done and unjust advantage taken, after the fact?


You can have an alt account where you build a reputation but do not divulge personal information.

That way if you got something important to say there is a backstory to verify.

Of course this can be gamed and personas can be built as a weapon for future conflicts but at least the option is available for me and you to communicate with some credibility without opening us up to offline attacks. (I was originally writing IRL, but online is Real Life IMO, it is just that some parts of my online life doesn't point back a single identity.)

There are a number of people here who run two accounts, like me. It is mostly a good thing IMO and totally OK with the mods as long as the alt accounts follow the rules and doesn't change too often. This is my third in a decade or so I think.


Unfortunately, none of this is verifiable and you are posting form account created to post this comment.


> But you can't go around attacking people like that.

You can, and sometimes you should.

What looks embarrassing for the person they do this and then act surprised when the people they attacked retaliate, especially if those people are wealthier and / or better connect.


"His arguments and reasoning were edited for tone and posted by others and HR did not take any of that down. He wasn't fired for what he said, but how he said it. His post was vicious and demeaning toward other FB employees. It directly attacked the character and ethical constitution of specific employees in the company." - I thought free speech meant one could say whatever they wanted. Why is HR being the arbiter of decency here?

"Although I think at FB there are many things you can't say, his actual beliefs were not bold or rare. Many people say similar things all the time. But you can't go around attacking people like that." - that's what people do 'on' Facebook all the time and no action is taken.


Free speech means congress isn’t allowed to silence the media.

Free speech does not mean you can say whatever you want without consequences.

Arguably, one purpose of HR is to help employees work well together. It is in their literal job description to be arbiter of decency.


"Free speech means congress isn’t allowed to silence the media."

Wrong. The First Amendment means that Congress isn't allowed to silence the media. The First Amendment and "free speech" are entirely different entities, with really not much shared between them. The First Amendment is a law and what it does and doesn't mean has been quite precisely specified by the Supreme Court. "Free speech" is a more loosely-specified concept, and is much broader than the First Amendment. One could easily believe (as I and many others do) that free speech is very valuable, so valuable that it deserves even stronger protections than those granted by the First Amendment.


Due to the seemingly consistent inability of many people to understand the broader concept you expressed there I feel the need to spell it out in a bit more detail.

Free speech: the freedom to speak one's mind (this can apply in any context).

Any and all consequences for speaking one's mind are a direct assault on one's freedom of speech in the relevant context, by definition.

The first amendment protects individuals who speak their minds from government imposed consequences for doing so. This is meant to prevent the government from curtailing their freedom to express themselves.

"Freedom of speech, not freedom from consequence" means (in the context of the US) that even if there aren't any governmental consequences for speaking your mind there might still be social ones.

Hypothetical situation: People debate the merits of a non-governmental entity (for example, an employer) placing various restrictions on speech in some context (say, in the work place). Someone comes along and glibly points out that "freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequence". Said commenter has _completely_ missed the point.


> Any and all consequences

Is the implication of violence/aggression in said speech is a justified consequence?

> Said commenter has _completely_ missed the point

I'm I understanding this correctly, this is because it is against the principle of free speech, and people might conflate it with 1A? Isn't it preconditioned on everyone being on the same page about free speech? We've seen people having extreme opinions being shunned by the the rest of the cohort. How does this group then maintain cohesion, rather is it even possible to do so?


> Is the implication of violence/aggression in said speech is a justified consequence?

I'm not quite sure what you're asking here, but note that I was speaking to definitions (ie I wasn't debating the merits of any particular situation). Employing relevant terms in a mutually understood manner is a prerequisite for the productive conversation of a topic.

> this is because it is against the principle of free speech, and people might conflate it with 1A?

You misunderstand. In the hypothetical situation, the merits (or extent, or mechanics, etc) of free speech (ie the principle) in some specific social context (ex at work) are being discussed. Someone shows up to the party and unhelpfully points out what the current legal realities are. But the legal status isn't what's under discussion - in context, it's an off topic comment that serves only to derail the conversation.


Thanks for clarifying!


"Free speech means congress isn’t allowed to silence the media"

That's the narrow redefinition of free speech that's currently in vogue with people who want to crack down on free speech. The whole time I was growing up, until quite recently in fact, free speech meant the freedom to speak your mind. The idea that people would routinely get fired for voicing their opinions, which is the world the new ideologues want to create for us, would have seemed shockingly unfree.

The classic cliché of the limits of free speech is "yelling fire in a crowded theater". That's where society used to draw the limit. Those lines are being way, way, way moved, and the people moving them are pretending that they're just reiterating the old standard. It's a radical shift, and everyone who doesn't subscribe to this orthodoxy can feel it, even if they're too vulnerable to be able to stand up to the priests.


I completely agree with the sentiment of what you expressed.

However, I have to nitpick for accuracy. Despite becoming a cliche, "yelling fire in a crowded theater" was never actually the standard in the US. Currently it's "imminent lawless action". (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imminent_lawless_action)


I just mean that culturally it's the classic example that people would always bring up to illustrate the limits of free speech. The legal standard is a different question of course. But that's part of the issue here. Free speech isn't just a narrow legal question. It's a cultural value, and it's under assault in a way we've never seen in our lifetimes. The fact that "yelling fire in a crowded theater" was never actually the legal standard (which is interesting by the way!) supports this point.


Companies can fire employees who they believe are being disruptive to a productive workplace. This is not a recent development in America.

Also, firing someone stops them from receiving a paycheck, not from speaking.


Whacking their knees with a crowbar wouldn't stop them from speaking either, but we don't do that when someone expresses a wrong view, nor should we try to get them fired. Free speech as a cultural value requires that people actually be free to speak. If one fears losing one's livelihood, one is not free to speak. That's obvious.

For a long time, it was the left who championed this. Noam Chomsky, an archetype of the left, has always been one of the biggest free-speech advocates in the US, and takes a far more expansive view than "free speech only means the government can't put you in prison". He advocated for Walt Rostow, a technocrat whom he had condemned in print as a war criminal, to be allowed to teach at MIT. But he's a libertarian socialist, and the left has taken an authoritarian turn.

The social-media driven ideological lust for driving wrong-speakers out of their jobs (and inflicting anything else the mob can muster) is clearly a recent development in America, and you have to go back at least to McCarthyism to find anything comparable.


To preface I'm going to be loose with the actual decision of Citizens United: Ironically, since the Supreme Court ruled restrictions on spending money was a violation of the first amendment, one could argue that losing your paycheck, and your ability to spend money you would have otherwise had, is a form of losing their speech.

I'm not sure I believe any of that but I think it is an interesting idea.


You can't have the freedom of speech when there is a chance for retaliation.


True, it also means to leave people to their opinion. The reduction to government is certainly short sighted at least.

People reiterating it to justify banning people have to live with the fact that they too might get excluded.

We have certainly dogmatic speech rules around racism and sexism while most people don't really perpetuate it, but can still be penalized if some schmuck thinks you have crossed a line of imagined decency.

Companies are really bad at policing speech, of course it would be restrictive. People demanding more of it should just be ignored because they haven't thought it through.


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I would argue that this is the fault of the 2-party system rather than of said 63M people. The choice was between Clinton and Trump, there was not really a sane option. Maybe if Sanders was a candidate..


> The choice was between Clinton and Trump, there was not really a sane option.

Yeah, that's not true. If you believe the last 4 years would have been the same or worse under Clinton, I don't know what to tell you - you're suffering from Clinton Derangement Syndrome and are utterly disconnected from reality.


Am I though? It was her husband that bombed Serbia (as far as I know trump did not start any full scale war unlike the previous 3 presidents - see libya, iraq, afghanistan, yugoslavia, etc), her husband that did the whole encryption export bullshit (and she was in the gov in both cases), she herself supported the TPP. Maybe with her there would be slightly less concentration camps at the border with mexico and net neutrality would remain a thing but I can't really think of many more things that she would do better.

Regardless, it is not whether about "the last 4 years would have been the same or worse under Clinton" but rather whether "the last 4 years would have been significantly better with clinton". If I was given the option between horse poop and elephant poop I would choose neither.

EDIT: Maybe she would have defended syria during the Turkish invasion but I seriously doubt it.


> rather whether "the last 4 years would have been significantly better with clinton".

The fact that you can question whether almost literally anyone else as President would be "significantly better" than the trash fire that is the current US situation is astonishing.

> If I was given the option between horse poop and elephant poop I would choose neither.

The thing is, in politics, you don't get to "choose neither" because you get one or the other and that choice, regardless of how pure and glowy you feel inside about your moral high ground, has direct and lasting consequences for everyone in the country (and, to some extent, outside it too.)


>The fact that you can question whether almost literally anyone else as President would be "significantly better" than the trash fire that is the current US situation is astonishing.

Depends where you live I guess. I have quite a few friends in the Middle East or in Damascus who are happy to not have been bombed. There's absolutely no doubt that Hillary was much more of a war hawk than trump has been. I'd even say he has been the least hawkish president in the past 40 years.


> than the trash fire that is the current US situation

Everyone that I know has been saying that for their own country for ages, I personally believe that the US is doing much better when compared with certain European nations (such as Britain for example). As I mentioned before comparatively with the past presidents Trump (at least in my limited european view) has done less evil (I mentioned it before, cancelled TPP and did not declare any war). If you disagree I would be glad if you could explain how Clinton specifically would do better.

> you don't get to "choose neither"

I do, I get to vote for a 3rd party that will at least vote for sane choices in the parlement.

> regardless of how pure and glowy you feel inside about your moral high ground

I do not appreciate your tone (including from the previous post: "you're suffering from Clinton Derangement Syndrome and are utterly disconnected from reality"). Surely we can acknowledge our differences in opinion and have a civilized debate without this.

> has direct and lasting consequences for everyone in the country

And so would voting for your preferred candidate. There would be no point on voting if it made absolutely no difference.


> If you disagree I would be glad if you could explain how Clinton specifically would do better.

It's impossible to argue a counterfactual but: she wouldn't have bungled her way into letting 160,000+ people die from COVID-19; I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have colluded with the Russians; Wouldn't have seen the illegal occupancy of government positions by unconfirmed nominees; Wouldn't have the Emoluments Clause in shreds; Doesn't have a charity that's been found to be little more than a funnel to their own pockets; Almost certainly wouldn't have started a catastrophically stupid trade war with China; Wouldn't have alienated Europe (except for the right wing countries); Wouldn't have pulled out of WHO, etc.

I mean, I could go on for hours listing the things that any rational person would have avoided doing if they were elected.

> Surely we can acknowledge our differences in opinion and have a civilized debate without this.

No, not really, if you honestly believe that Clinton is even within orders of magnitude as horrific as Trump.


> she wouldn't have bungled her way into letting 160,000+ people die from COVID-19

She might have done somewhat better, sure, but the economy would suffer even more in return (which implies homelessness, debt, etc). It is not an easy choice to make regardless.

> colluded with the Russians

I do not find anything wrong with this.

> Wouldn't have seen the illegal occupancy of government positions by unconfirmed nominees; Wouldn't have the Emoluments Clause in shreds

I do not know anything about these so I will take your word.

> Doesn't have a charity that's been found to be little more than a funnel to their own pockets

This is not relevant to him being a president unless if he has been using public money to funnel money to himself by using it.

> Almost certainly wouldn't have started a catastrophically stupid trade war with China

Said trade war has been going on for a while (and was started by china), most HN commenters seem to take the US side in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24077339 for example. In addition I was under the impression that the Democratic party has anti-china policies too.

> Wouldn't have alienated Europe

That again had happened before Trump came to power, although admittedly Trump worsened it. Still, I think that this is a minor issue.

> Wouldn't have pulled out of WHO

I do not find anything wrong with this either. WHO is quite responsible for the current state regarding covid and I am pretty sure that they continue their anti-mask propaganda.

Honestly, all of these seem like minor things when considering what I mentioned before (which I would rather not keep repeating but here they are: the TPP and the various invasions that Clinton or her Husband started or assisted). At the same time I doubt that she would be able to resolve the NK situation.

> No, not really, if you honestly believe that Clinton is even within orders of magnitude as horrific as Trump.

I do not get it. You do not gain anything by insulting your debate "opponents", so why do this? In addition this is just an opinion, so what if I believe that? Even if I end up being proven wrong is it really that bad?


I agree with you to a degree, but would argue there has always been a distinction about what is allowable as civil speech in the workplace, e.g if I cuss out a co-employee I would expect to be fired, even though I was just freely expressing myself. What I find disturbing is the firing of individuals for what they say outside of the workplace e.g on social media, and then due to internet outcry the person is fired. This is far too close to your workplace being able to decide what you are allowed to think, for me to be comfortable with, and it is becoming a norm.


> free speech meant the freedom to speak your mind

As long as you were white, reasonably well-off, and probably male, yes. It did not mean that for almost everyone else.

Also "speaking your mind" has never been (and never should be) consequence free. There was just no recourse for the majority to apply consequences until recently.

> The idea that people would routinely get fired for voicing their opinions [...] would have seemed shockingly unfree.

I'm pretty sure people have been fired for voicing their opinions all the time - it just wasn't white folk, especially men. And not just fired - plenty of people have been killed for voicing their opinion in the USA since day 1. Just not really white folk, especially men.

> That's where society used to draw the limit.

Because society used to be a lot more lopsided in terms of diversity, power balance, etc. Now the balance has shifted and some of the people who previously had all the power do not like it one bit.


> As long as you were white, reasonably well-off, and probably male, yes. It did not mean that for almost everyone else.

There's some truth to that, but the solution is obviously to extend the same freedom to everyone, not dive into authoritarianism.

> There was just no recourse for the majority to apply consequences until recently

It is not at all the majority who are "applying consequences". It is a small vanguard of extremists, most of whom conspicuously belong to the classes they criticize.


> There was just no recourse for the majority to apply consequences until recently

And this was a good thing. Before that the majority applied said consequences via witch trials.

> I'm pretty sure people have been fired for voicing their opinions all the time - it just wasn't white folk, especially men. And not just fired - plenty of people have been killed for voicing their opinion in the USA since day 1. Just not really white folk, especially men.

Said people did not have the freedom of speech. It would be great if we changed that so that it applies to everyone.


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[flagged]


GP is talking about cultural power, not political power. Look around you and you'll see so much:

- affirmative action which sees white males as "above" other races, so "compensates" for others

- being told they're the root of all evil

- being told they can't "punch down" - even though this is a white supremacist viewpoint because it's putting one race over all others

- being told colourblind-ness is racist

I want to be peers with all races and genders, not divided over silly lines.


> GP is talking about cultural power, not political power.

And yet where do the life and death decisions get made? In political arenas, not cultural ones.

> - being told they're the root of all evil

For a long time, they were. (Trust me, I'm English, I'm painfully aware of this.) Many of them in power still are - just look at the GOP, for example, or UKGOV.

> - being told they can't "punch down"

I mean, "punching down" is bad no matter who does it.

> - being told colourblind-ness is racist

Because it's still picking a side - "I don't want to get involved" is just an implicit picking of the side with the most power.


> And yet where do the life and death decisions get made? In political arenas, not cultural ones.

Look at the UK government demographics. The cabinet especially is more diverse than the actual general population.

> For a long time, they were. (Trust me, I'm English, I'm painfully aware of this.) Many of them in power still are - just look at the GOP, for example, or UKGOV.

I'm English too and this is a complete mischaracterisation of our cultural history.

You can't judge the past by today's standards. To do so is childish and un-empathic. Remember, the British were the one to end slavery because our culture battled with this opposing idea (it goes against our core belief in individual freedom) for a long time.

Not to mention, every single culture on Earth would've done exactly the same if they had the chance.

> I mean, "punching down" is bad no matter who does it.

You're missing my point.

Saying that white people are punching down is racist, because it implies a hierarchy where white people are on top. It's a white supremacist viewpoint, albeit with a guilty conscience.

> Because it's still picking a side - "I don't want to get involved" is just an implicit picking of the side with the most power.

No - you don't get to judge people for staying out of this shit flinging contest going on in today's politics. Most people just do not care and they never will.


> Look at the UK government demographics.

I will concede that the current UKGov is less white male than it has been but UK politics has always been much more progressive in that regard.

> You can't judge the past by today's standards.

In some aspects, absolutely. In things like "did they invade, subjugate, enslave, and pillage?", you absolutely can. Just because they didn't have porcelain toilets and lightbulbs doesn't mean what the British Empire got up to was ok, for example.

> every single culture on Earth would've done exactly the same if they had the chance

Not exactly a justification.

> Saying that white people are punching down is racist, because it implies a hierarchy where white people are on top.

In terms of political, cultural, etc. power, they are, that's the point - you don't pick on people with less power than you (see also: British Empire.)

> you don't get to judge people for staying out of this shit flinging contest going on in today's politics.

Of course you do. "It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing." (Reverend Charles Frederic Aked, 1916)


> In some aspects, absolutely. In things like "did they invade, subjugate, enslave, and pillage?", you absolutely can. Just because they didn't have porcelain toilets and lightbulbs doesn't mean what the British Empire got up to was ok, for example.

I'm not going to excuse these things. What I will let slide is that it was individuals who did this, not "white males". I think associating race and gender with a particular ideology is deeply harmful to our culture, especially when those people were products of their time. They didn't know any differently.

> In terms of political, cultural, etc. power, they are, that's the point - you don't pick on people with less power than you (see also: British Empire.)

I guess we just disagree. I don't believe a person of colour has any more or less 'power' than me, solely based on racial divide. What is a problem in our society is class divide, but that isn't related to race. Or are you going to suggest I'm move privileged than Will Smith (or another rich/famous/powerful person of colour)?


“Guys, guys, Galileo wasn't actually cancelled. He just found out that free speech has consequences.” @konstantinkisin


I think GP is trying to say that Facebook routinely takes the stance that they shouldn't be the arbiter of acceptable speech. So it's notable that they are actively policing speech in this instance.


Facebook-the-product doesn’t want to be the arbiter of acceptable speech for the whole world.

Facebook’s HR department does want to be the arbiter of acceptable speech for facebook employees communicating with each other inside the company.

These are quite different situations, IMO.


If you extend HR policies to your users, you won't have too much left after a while. And that isn't what free speech means at all. It is trivial that there a consequences to speech as there are consequences for trying to police speech.


"Free speech means congress isn’t allowed to silence the media." - Exactly but Facebook the platform can but they choose not to because it's convenient for them regardless of whether someone spreads misinformation or maligns another person.


> Exactly but Facebook the platform can but they choose not to because it's convenient for them regardless of whether someone spreads misinformation or maligns another person.

You've gone way off topic, missed the point of the people you're responding to, and seem to have some agenda regarding Facebook that's not relevant to this discussion, which is about Facebook as an employer.


“Potential” Political bias.

Can we just acknowledge for a moment what it’d be like to have a colleague who’s desperately trying to prove that your work is a “big conspiracy” when you’re honestly all just trying to do your best.

I see so many of these stories of weirdly rogue political activist type employees recently surprised when they their employer doesn’t like that they’re purposely trying to undermine them and their employees work. I’m sure Facebook isn’t perfect, but I know enough good people who work there to know they’re not all out to “get” us.

This smells like sour grapes* from an employee who focused more on their plans to take down their employer than their actual job.

*ed: previously written as “sour apples”...it’s been a long day.


> This smells like sour apples from an employee who focused more on their plans to take down their employer than their actual job.

The story didn't read as "sour apples" to me but rather an employee pointing out evidence that contradicts the "two strikes" policy Zuckerberg explained at the company Q&A. It's tough to write that off as "Facebook isn't perfect".


A google employee had also similarly pointed out evidence in an internal company memo few years ago. That employee was promptly fired and last I heard, he is struggling to make a living and ends meet in the US.


That employee argued that people, such as people like me, were inherently less competent than others due to aspects of their gestation. Frankly I wouldn’t want to work with someone with such an attitude, and based on his writing vice versa.

If he actually cannot get a job due to his stated opinions, well, frankly I’m not surprised. Why would you hire someone who publically says up front he scorns many of his potential coworkers?


It's amazing that even years later people are still mischaracterizing his argument in the exact same way.


I know many people comment on any topic second hand, but I read what he wrote and I’m quite familiar with the meaning.

It’s the same as when people protest building housing: “oh it will not align with the character of our neighborhood”. I know what they are really talking about, and I know full well what he was talking about — he was making the same argument, in the same terms, as plenty have before him. I assume he read those arguments before, himself.


Is it possible to make an argument to those ends without being accused of being a racist/sexist/etc in your mind? Is there any way that someone could convince you that they were sincere?

> oh it will not align with the character of our neighborhood

Is there no situation where this is obviously, trivially true? If someone wants to replace a traditional cottage in the middle of an Irish village with a glass and steel modernist masterpiece, would you accept the argument then?


Probably not; I suspect that gumby would say that the position is inherently sexist, no matter how sincerely held.

I read the memo as sincerely asking whether the data showed a sexist conclusion. Either it is inherently sexist to ask the question, or it isn't. If it is, then... what? Is it inherently sexist to note that men are faster than women? (Yes, I am aware that there are 12-year-old girls who can beat me in the 100 meters. No, that doesn't invalidate my point.) Then is reality sexist? Or is it only sexist to notice? Or to admit that you noticed?

If it isn't inherently sexist to ask the question, then we start into judgment on whether he asked it in good faith. That's a different question, on which I will not pass judgment. But I suspect that what's happening is that people have decided that it is sexist to ask the question, and therefore he couldn't have asked it in good faith.


I agree that many people seem to find asking a question in the first place to be inherently * ist. Personally, I think that by refusing to ask questions we make it impossible to find better solutions and leave openings for other belief systems to thrive. (If the only people explaining a difference are the Nazis because everyone else says there's no difference, well then anyone who goes looking for the cause is going to find what the Nazis what you to find. Easier to twist a narrative when you don't have any competition)


I think to some degree what is being argued is that a genuinely sincere concern along this line relies on assumptions perpetuate social inequality and continued oppression of humans. It is similar to a constant suspicion of men around children perpetuates continued discomfort of men to be strong, loving, present father figures to their children whom they genuinely care for, and from this a concern based on assumptions harms the family structure overall.


Perhaps - but if every time that someone argues in an unapproved direction they're called a * ist, it's irritating to tell the difference between someone genuinely trying to help and Richard Spencer.

And anything that says * ism might be a smaller problem than thought, that * ism is getting better, or that our current efforts to reduce * ism are ineffective... Well, that's an unapproved direction.

Also, if I know there's no way to convince someone of something, I'm generally going to stop caring about what they think. (Because it's always going to be the same, and nothing I can do will change that)


I agree but I simultaneously find this rhetoric difficult because it also means that people who are actively being targets of bigotry cannot respond to bigoted assumptions with any amount of anger or calling out. It in some ways perpetuates that assumption I mentioned that continues systems of inequality continuing- people who are being delivered unjust outcomes may not even respond in the way a privileged human would if they were forced under the same conditions.


So basically you’re putting words in his mouth and using those to argue he’s sexist?


Pretty much exactly that. I doubt many people here actually bothered to read it for themselves.


Not really.

Right after the (somewhat-carefully-worded) memo was punished, the author showed his hand by appearing as a guest on the YouTube show of Stefan Molyneux who, even then, was well-known for his white nationalism and "men's rights" activism.


I actually watched that interview and he just said the same thing he said in the memo. Damore went on a lot of alternative media platforms such as Joe Rogan.

In any case your underlying argument is really bizarre.


If I wrote a long memo about how there are too many immigrants in America, and afterwards accepted an interview request from VDare, people would be right to wonder whether my private views were a little more racist than the memo let on.


It's racist to assume that someone is an immigrant because of their appearance. It's not racist to say that you think rates of immigration are too high. You can oppose immigration but have nothing but delight for the diversity of culture across the planet. A xenophilic restrictionist, as Eric Weinstein describes it.

In fact extreme xenophilic restrictionism is the norm in Japan. There's almost universal support by the Japanese people for their extremely restrictive immigration policy—probably the most restrictive first world country. But no sane person could call the Japanese people racist. They love other cultures—no, they adore them. They are incredibly welcoming to tourists from across the planet and delight in the sharing of culture.


> But no sane person could call the Japanese people racist.

Is this a joke? Japan has well-known issues with race relations and its historical and current treatment of its minority indigenous populations.


Pretty much every major culture has racism in its past. Pretty much every culture still has some percentage of racist people.


I don't know what strange romantic picture of Japan you've managed to paint in your head, but the real-world country has well-documented and very current issues with pervasive racism and xenophobia.


All mature cultures have a noisy minority population of xenophobes. Japan isn't special in that regard and I never said it was.


>There's almost universal support by the Japanese people for their extremely restrictive immigration policy

Can you point to some statistics on that, please?

>probably the most restrictive first world country

If you can get hired by a Japanese company (and some do accept applications from overseas), they will sponsor your work visa. There's none of this H1-B style nonsense. After you're in Japan, if you've been there continuously for five years (which, mind you, is a smaller period of time than any country I can name OTOH), you can apply for citizenship, and again as far as I know, it's not a ridiculous waiting list/lottery style process. In what way is this nearly as restrictve as you're saying?

It's also not difficult at all to get into Japan by applying to an English teaching company (eikaiwa or ALT jobs) from overseas (where they recruit from), and all you need is any Bachelor's degree. You'll have a valid work visa and you can be shipped out within months. Try doing the same as a Japanese teacher applying to teach in the US (or many other countries, for that matter). Browse tech job listings for Japanese companies on major job boards in the West. Almost all of them note that they'll be happy to sponsor your work visa.

This game of prettying up the language to make it seem nice and friendly, while maintaining the otherness that daily affects people (groups which the other reply to you here has pointed out) with language like "xenophilic restrictionist" does nobody favours.

And if there is support for such policies, and in particular bent on nihonjinron notions and race perceptions, I must be insane, but I'm going to go ahead and call "the Japanese people" racist. Being "incredibly welcoming to tourists" doesn't mean anything if you want to work and live there. It misses the whole point of the discussion, and waves away systemic issues with a gloss of "they're good to tourists". We're not talking about tourists. I don't care how much they are able to enjoy Western comedians. I care how receptive they are to people integrating and living in their society like everyone else, as the Japanese constitution guarantees should be possible.

At the risk of stirring the pot a little (and only because I couldn't think of a better analogy), you may as well say no country has race problems, because after all, members of the majority race might frequently listen to music by, and watch films featuring, the minority race. That doesn't mean anything in terms of how the minority race is treated, and it's a farcically ignorant point to make. So sorry if I see the same sort of logic in nebulous feelgood terms like "xenophilic restrictionism".


> But no sane person could call the Japanese people racist

I would disagree with that. You will see many sane people pointing out the racism against koreans, chinese, tourists, western residents, etc in Japan.


They're referring to James Damore being alt-right.

Kind of like how he soon after sued Google for discrimination for being "white male conservative" (which has not aged well).


Insofar as alt-right is a synonym for neo-Nazi that would certainly be a laughably ridiculous claim.


That's why 'alt right' wasn't being used as a synonym for Neo-Nazis - that's your own straw man to laugh at.


Alt-right used to mean alternative-to-Boomer-conservative (i.e. right-leaning 4chan/meme culture) and then it meant neo-Nazi (e.g. Richard Spencer).

What does it mean to you?


https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Alt-right

By suing Google for discrimination against white conservative men, Damore fits this fairly well. That, and the alt-right podcasts he went on.


"Guilty by association". That's the argument.


What's amazing is that people, to this day, take a personal weakly-worded memo as scientific fact.


I don't think anyone really considers the memo itself to be a scientific fact. The scientific papers cited and arguments contained therein people might take as scientific facts.


Considering 'the arguments therin' to be scientific is considering the memo to be scientific, which it's not.

When they're not conservative opinion pieces, they're cherry picked articles, even going to far as to misrepresent the data they support.


It was a pretty scientific memo. It cited a lot of scientific research.

The sort of people who argue against his memo always end up looking foolish because they never argue against anything that was actually said. No specific claims are ever brought up except lying strawmen like "he said women can't program", a claim not found in the memo.

Instead it's all just slurs, insults, attacks on his character, guilt-by-association and so on. There's never any actual depth to it, it's all "don't look at the bad man".

Damore's arguments must be good, because in years of this coming up nobody has ever once managed to make an intellectual argument against the stuff in his memo.


edit: you've already been lumped on, no need to reply to more of the same here.

Now that the dust has settled a bit on the memo, I'm curious about this take:

>That employee argued that people, such as people like me, were inherently less competent than others due to aspects of their gestation.

I didn't get that much of a dichotomy from the memo. To me he focused much more on interests than competency or capability, and he went through some effort to indicate that the effect was limited, including this summary at the top:

>Many of these differences are small and there's significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.

Then followed with a little chart showing two distributions with a lot of overlap.

I felt like the story of the memo overtook the memo itself, which seemed to be a ham-fisted attempt at exploring how we prioritize various metrics with diversity and inclusion. It was obviously premature as well, based on his own charts the effects he was discussing wouldn't come into play until we're approaching something much more even than we have today.

Ultimately the way Google handled it seemed rather cowardly. Damore's personal story adds a little complexity to the situation and I really feel that he touched a third rail that might not have been as obvious to him at the time.


> I felt like the story of the memo overtook the memo itself

And that story was mostly fictional. The memo itself bares little resemblance to most of the reporting about it.


I think there's something to be learned from that difference though, which is what drove me to ask about it. It's easy to assume that zero of it was in good faith and discredit everyone that echoes that sentiment as a deliberate manipulator. I just have a hard time accepting that. I do believe there is a lot of deliberate manipulation, but there are also a lot of folks that are frustrated and disappointed based on their own lived experience and I can see how the memo could be read entirely differently.

Squaring off over unfalsifiable claims about intent and impact isn't going to get us anywhere, in the Damore case it's literally 'he said/she said'. We need to navigate it piece by piece and try to apply a balance of reason and empathy to try to get to a place of understanding.


> I can see how the memo could be read entirely differently

Sure, but you can't hold the original author responsible for how it is being rewritten and reinterpreted in other people's minds. It's not a reasonable expectation that everyone should write everything with concern for how every cultural intersection might interpret it. That simply can't scale.


100%. I really could not agree more with you. I just feel that having the same stalemate of intent vs impact over and over isn't going to yield any new results. If I'm able to understand what puts the blinders up in tricky discussions, I'm better equipped to get past them and a little bit closer to unpacking the next layer.


I don't think he argued that anyone was inherently less competent.

From what I understand it was about preferences not competencies.


Can you explain what you mean by gestation?

I thought at first you meant gender, but then I looked up the word and it means "the process or period of developing inside the womb between conception and birth" and now I'm not sure.


A vicious mischaracterization.


Do you mean James Damore? According to LinkedIn he is working at a startup.


[flagged]


I am someone who is not very familiar with the case, why are you saying that Damore was a "huge piece of shit" and that he was a "was a horrible human beings and got everything he deserved"? I thought that he just made a statistical argument regarding preferences.


Yeah, that was essentially what it was. Such a viscous response to a person like Damore is also quite comical and makes one look pretty ridiculous


[flagged]


Honestly, as bigoted and creepy as the diversity memo is; I found Google's response just as creepy.

It would be one thing if they called the diversity memo out as disruptive and bigoted, but they said it had "wrong opinions." That just reeks of authoritarianism.

I'm more afraid of authoritarianism from a major company than a bigot.


The memo wasn't bigoted or creepy, it didn't even say anything particularly remarkable, though I do agree it failed to pay sufficient deference to the cultural moment. But the assertion that it was hateful or bigoted went unchallenged in all of the reporting around it.

If you haven't read it yourself, I encourage you to challenge yourself with an open mind and give it a read.


> I encourage you to challenge yourself with an open mind and give it a read

I did. It relies on junk science to justify bigotry.

And that's why Google's response concerns me. (I encourage you to look it up too.) It uses the words "wrong opinion" instead of calling out the junk science. But it also abandoned employees who may have mild concerns about the processes that Google was following.

Thus, Google handled the situation poorly because it didn't discredit the "diversity memo." It assumed that everyone disagreed with the memo, which clearly isn't the case.

---

Junk science: Think of debunked science like eugenics that were used to justify past bigotry.


"It relies on junk science to justify bigotry."

Go on then, cite a paragraph directly from Damore's memo that "relies on junk science." I'm waiting. I dare say I'll be waiting a while. Hopefully it inspires you to actually read it for yourself instead of parrot what a few other people have said.

Or at the very least, if you'd prefer the lazier option, listen to what some other people who've read the memo said about it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZZSYPs1_ng


The whole "personality differences" section.


I worked with one.

He and his buddies had and endless list of grievances involving political this and that. Nothing seemed to happen that wasn't somehow 'political.' They surrounded themselves in this thicket of 'logic' where the simplest explanation was impossible and conspiracies were the most obvious answer to them. Thankfully it was long before social media as we know it.

He was fired for leaving some nasty bigoted comments in code.

But for the record I have no idea who these folks at Facebook are or their motivations.

If the guy I'm thinking of made the news, you wouldn't know either.


I have some relatives like that: the government is preventing us from XXX. Yet I can happily do xxx if I wish...

Eventually I just stopped talking with them as that’s all they could talk about.


Did you read the story? The details seem pretty damning to me.

> I’m sure Facebook isn’t perfect, but I know enough good people who work there to know they’re not all out to “get” us.

Yeah, I don't think you read the article. That's what's happening: a bunch of employees are blowing the whistle on what seems to be executive abuse of the fact check program.


As the FB employee in this thread commented - this person vilified others and was fired for that, not his attempts to "bring down the man".

Large scale platforms like this are hard to manage. I can see many cases where people doing their best can be misconstrued as an evil conspiracy.

Eg.

- Users and companies with large fan bases are open to brigading. Previously companies have been taken off the platform suddenly because of militant FB groups.

- A new rule is instituted "anyone with more than X followers get Tier-1 support in reviewing and reinstating their account following a take down."

- Engineer on some team mildly close to the team who runs the takedown/reinstatement systems sees that a Right Wing commentator is getting Tier-1 support and fast turn around reinstatement.

- Said engineer tries to vilify the people who wrote the policy and those who are carrying it out, tries to go public with a conspiracy that "FB is prioritizing reinstating Right Wing users". Instead they've really just lost the trust of their peers, failed to understand the space properly, and now brought their employer into disrepute - they should be fired.

This stuff happens all the time, and is usually just chalked up to "its a hard problem to get right, and we're trying to get better every day". When people over react and make out like Zuck is pulling strings to rule the universe i have a hard time understanding when he sleeps.


The fact check program is itself executive abuse and should be ended. Given how many "fact checkers" are simply leftist pro-establishment types, and how many "fact checks" they produce are simple re-statements of whatever someone was claiming without bothering to address any raised criticisms, it doesn't surprise me at all that it's a flashpoint internally. These sort of people simply define anything that's not left wing as "misinformation", so the claim by the FB employee is on its surface meaningless.

Zuckerberg should never have given way on fact checking. I wonder if he understands it was a mistake. Facebook is meant to be a social network, it's inherently a graph oriented organisation in which graph nodes are all roughly equal. Fact checking is the exact opposite: a hierarchy with Facebook at the top and delegated "truth arbiters" a layer lower, that try to dominate the social graph.

The cited example of the Breitbart video is a good example. The video is a video of doctors. There are tons of scientists, government advisors and indeed whole governments saying they don't see any need for masks, children can go back to school or never even left (as in Sweden), etc. You don't need to go far to find them. That children aren't infectious is by now widely accepted in the scientific community. For Facebook to censor the President for making such a statement makes them look absurd, and totalitarian. Given the long term accusations of fraud surrounding mail voting that were never addressed, it's not a big surprise Trump is worrying about the integrity of the election process.


There are not "tons of scientists, government advisors" saying they don't see the need for masks. That is very much a minority opinion which is not supported by mainstream science.

I'm curious also by your claim that children aren't infectious. That is not widely accepted by the scientific community. It sounds like you're taking some minor positions and pretending like they're mainstream.


> It sounds like you're taking some minor positions and pretending like they're mainstream.

Indeed. And if the grandparent got all their "news" from paid feeds and shared content on Facebook (given the right seeding and demographics), they might genuinely believe these are mainstream positions.

Which is exactly the problem people are worried about in the linked article.


> Which is exactly the problem people are worried about in the linked article.

The problem with that is no amount of flagging and removing is going to fix the problem and that is why I don't even see the point, the left and right are so divided that those on the extremes will fall for anything being blinded by their emotional hatred for the other.

I mean we are at the point where the extreme left believes for a fact that via a thoroughly refuted dossier, that the sitting president paid Russian hookers to pee on him.

The extreme right is just as bad, believing that their is a global cabal of elite leftist that are raping children with a presidential candidate being one of them.

No amount of blocking content is going to repair the fact that people are no longer listening and that is the problem one side wants the other side filtered so that they can be the only voice shouting in the dark, thinking if the other side cannot talk then they are by default going to listen, but the reality is almost everybody has stopped listening, no amount of censorship is going to fix that.


This is a strawman and false equivalence. The "extreme left" believes the President definitely sexually assaulted at least one woman and additionally probably raped someone. The first part having been admitted to several times. Noone believes that 100% of the Steele dossier is true. The QAnon crowd is a minority of the "extreme right", although it is concerning how fast conspiracies spread, including "left conspiracies" like anti-vax or anti-GMO.

Fact checks might help slow crazy conspiracies a little bit. I think it is worth for this reason, although I believe in content warnings+disclaimers instead of takedowns because of Streisand effects.

Finally, again, the Steele dossier is not even a "left conspiracy". It is a side-product of rumor spreading games that the intelligence community plays, that got leaked. I think it is a bad example for the point your seem to be making.


> It is a side-product of rumor spreading games that the intelligence community plays

It was a hit piece, who funding is now well known, it was political from the start. What it was not, and would not qualify as is an intelligence report and was never formulated for the purpose of intel. It is no different than the hit pieces being produced by the right to paint Biden as a pedophile. So I don't see it as a Strawman as the point was people are so far gone on their version of the truth that no amount of censoring or labeling is going to pull them back from the edge. Both sides are doing it, and at this point there is no gradient of less-bad.


> at this point there is no gradient of less-bad.

OK, that's just silly. Read a newspaper? Watch a routine 1 hour news program from any of the major networks? No pee tape. No pizzagate (well, except when that nut started shooting up the restaurant over it). I'm sure you think there's "bias" but there are no lies.

There are many journalistic organizations who genuinely care about reporting the truth. And they "filter" and "censor" themselves to do it all the time, because in that world it's called "good journalism". They get stuff wrong, and when they do they tell us about it.

And the issue at hand here is that Facebook is trying to apply some of the same controls to the news it presents to its users, via most of the same processes (i.e. by trusting journalists). And stuff leaks through, and sometimes Facebook itself seems to be uneven in the application of its own rules.

So I don't get your point. Why is it OK for The Times to spike its reporting on the pee tape because it can't find good sourcing but when Facebook to do the same it's somehow an impossibility?


> I'm sure you think there's "bias" but there are no lies

Sure there is bias, Fox news is plenty biased so is CNN. and there are plenty of lies, a lie by omission is still a lie. Not to mention burying retractions in blurbs and page 10 even if they do a retraction. Make no mistake about it, I blame both sides equally so I am not advocating for one sides bias over another. My point is simply that people have stopped listening so all the meandering in the world will not "get them". Most everyone has chosen a side and the few of us left in the middle are stuck in a shit storm, that we don't want and we damn sure don't want to hear either sides dogma as it has become the stuff of religious fanatics, so we are not listening either.


The actual scientific evidence for masks is not as strong as you claim. Please read this analysis by the University of Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine. We need to do more research.

https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/masking-lack-of-evidence-with-...

Just to be clear, I am not advising anyone to avoid wearing a mask.


Strictly speaking we're both in violent agreement that really high quality studies are required for the evidence to be solid.

Please note that I did not say there was scientific evidence for masks, but that wearing masks is good is the mainstream scientific position (which changed only very recently).

I read your article. It's pretty limited in its analysis. I'm going by this popular science article from my alma mater (I have a PhD in biophysics), https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/06/417906/still-confused-abou...

The article you cited doesn't include a number of the articles my article mentions (http://files.fast.ai/papers/masks_lit_review.pdf, https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00818 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342198360_Associati..., https://www.cmaj.ca/content/192/15/E410, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/17/masks-sal...,

More importantly- this is a situation where we don't have unambiguous data, but the mainstream position is consistent with the current data and reasonable thinking about disease prevention.


The discussion upthread was about people arguing that masks aren't needed or don't work. This is review paper cautioning that the science behind mask effectiveness isn't as settled as we'd want. It shows good evidence for medical PPE being effective, but it found one study that showed cloth masks were actually harmful, and it points out that the applicability to covid isn't as strong as we'd like either.

There's nothing in there that should serve to argue against the general consensus that masks are a good idea. They are, within the bounds of the evidence at hand, effective in the opinions of most experts. And that includes the authors of the paper you wrote.


What general consensus?

You just wrote yourself that there is no consensus, even amongst scientists who have been extremely willing to recommend extreme measures from the start. The review paper showed the science isn't settled: that's literally the definition of no consensus.

The concept of scientific consensus is horribly abused. Look at the reply to my post. It's not about anything concrete, it just asserts everyone agrees with the poster. That's a lie, and obviously so. Yet simply by claiming it's true, some will believe it, as it's an unfalsifiable statement. Indeed you yourself believe it, even whilst reading a paper that says there's no consensus.


None of that is necessarily inconsistent with there being political bias though - which could exist despite everyone’s best intentions. Disagreeable people are sometimes right, as much as it might be hard to see it or admit it. [edit - tone]


Do note that “potential” was added by me when I edited title because the original didn’t fit. I tried to come up with something appropriate but you shouldn’t comment off my title.


> Can we just acknowledge for a moment...

They are not "weirdly rogue political activist type employees". They are normal people reacting to the abnormality that is Facebook. I mean which tech company has ever produced the kind of polarization, fake news, Brexit and Trump type events all over the globe?

If Intel or IBM or AT&T had produced these type of outcomes you can bet your ass "weirdly rogue political activist type employees" wld suddenly start popping up all over the place.

Facebook will continue to be a highly abnormal place to work for anyone who isn't mildly conformist.


Intel and AT&T might not have provided a platform which some people used for political propaganda but they have done other much worse things (ME, proprietary software/firmware/etc, anti-net-neutrality, anti-competition, etc).


Is this satire? You’re describing literally every left wing activist that accuses their employer of systemic bias, racism, pay disparity, interference in elections, etc.

Transparently it seems the right type of activists are celebrated and the wrong vilified. That’s fine, but let’s not act like this is principled.


There have been plenty of toxic people i've worked with who seem to think their job is to "point out all the unfairness in the world", when really they're just hired to pull stories off a backlog and write code.

I get that there are good whistle blowers. I also have first hand experience (a growing list recently) of people who decide to vilify their coworkers under the guise of "justice" and "taking down the man" when really most people ("evil VPs" included) are just trying to do their best and get through the day. They on the other hand are horrible to work with, and usually very unproductive. When threatened with performance management for their lack of delivery, they then tend to become hostile and see the whole charade as a conspiracy against them, when really no one trusts them or wants to work with them as they are assholes.


To be clear, the employee in question believes Facebook is giving preferential treatment to conservative-leaning pages. I'm not sure if that alone makes it fair to call them a left-wing activist, but this isn't an example of left-wing privilege either.


[flagged]

iron0013 76 days ago [flagged]

^ it’s neat to see a sleeper account being brought out of dormancy. Be interesting to see what you have to say between now and November 3.


You can't attack other users like that, regardless of how wrong they are or you feel they are. No more of this, please.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


[flagged]

iron0013 76 days ago [flagged]

Inauspicious first couple of comments. Might want to burn this one and move on to the next account on the list. Try starting more subtly next time; ease in with a few banal comments on a Rust thread or something


I just replied to your comment upthread saying that this is not ok, but I need to add more.

You've been using HN primarily for ideological warfare for a long time now. Your recent comments in particular have been breaking the site guidelines egregiously and repeatedly. You've pulled this "sleeper account" attack before as well (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23859828).

If you keep breaking the site guidelines, we are going to ban you. Actually, you're well into bannable territory as it is. I'm shocked at how much and you badly you've crossed the line. We've cut you way more slack than most people get here.

If you don't want to be banned on HN, please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules from now on. For all its many flaws, this is a community, and to participate in a community while constantly destroying the commons is incongruent. People who use this place need to take care of it, not burn it. That goes for everyone, regardless of what their political views are or how intensely they feel them, and that includes you.


Their comment history, in conjunction with recent comments like this one [0], makes me wonder why this individual hasn’t been banned already.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24190744


Just genuine curiosity because I like this site and like how active you are in constructively moderating it: Why not simply ban people who have crossed the line this badly for this long? It certainly doesn't seem heavy handed or unfair.


Comments like the one you're replying to serve an additional purpose of indicating acceptable posting standards to readers. Dang may happen to err on the side of forgiving, and imho that helps form some of the character of HN.

The idea that commenters should "make HN good because we all want it to be good" is quite positive, and that sentiment seems to be reflected here far more than banhappy reddit.


I think we agree, and that makes sense.


Sometimes people change. It's good to try different approaches, since one might persuade where a different one fails to persuade. For example, some people respond to arguments about rules while others respond to arguments about protecting the commons.

It's better to err on the side of patience generally, and feels more in keeping with the values of the site. There's are also judgment calls about things like who seems more likely to respond to persuasion, how much history the account has, whether it's related to previous abusive accounts, and things like that.


> Why not simply ban people who have crossed the line this badly for this long?

They'll just make another account and start over.

By explaining what the person is doing wrong, maybe Dang can help them be a more productive member of the HN community.


Please just ban these people Dan. You are banging your head against the wall arguing w idealogues who don't want to participate just throw stones...


This website holds a great deal of power beyond the community itself, so it is appropriate to have some community members represent non-community interests. Many people not in the community believe that Hacker News is no longer salvageable.


HN commenters represent whatever interests they wish—standing up for minorities, for example. There's no problem doing that. All people need to do is stay within the site guidelines, and most commenters do. So this is not the issue.

As for HN being "no longer salvageable" - people have been saying these things for 10 years or more. Of course it could have become true after 10 years—I don't want to be complacent. Sometimes the wolf eventually shows up. But there needs to be some evidence beyond simply repeating the things people repeat.

Right-wingers think HN is overrun by Marxists and left-wingers think it's overrun by Nazis. Both sides agree that the mods do a bad job and the site is destroying itself fast. They've been saying that for years. The decisive element here is the passions of the perceiver, not the object being perceived. That's why people's perceptions are so contradictory: what they're perceiving is an inverse of their own identifications. Usually this is based on a few data points that they overgeneralize. I've written about this a lot: see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23308098 for a summary, and https://hn.algolia.com/?query=notice%20dislike%20by:dang&dat... for endless descriptions of the bias at work.

Of course it doesn't follow that criticisms are invalid. We try to be open and often adjust in response. But criticisms have to rise above a certain noise level—they need to clear the "randomness plus cognitive bias equals narrative" bar. When you say "Many people not in the community believe that Hacker News is no longer salvageable," it's not clear to me whether you're talking about serious critics or, say, Twitter ideologues, who have been saying that about HN since at least 2013. Most of that is driven by fashion. For example, small groups bond by snarking about, or denouncing, larger groups. That's all normal social dynamics (and internet dynamics), but I've learned the hard way that if you take those statements literally, it's crazymaking, because they're not really about what they purport to be about. That's not a reliable way to improve or, if you like, "salvage" HN.

All of which is a long way of saying that if you, or anyone, wants to discuss problems with HN, that's great, but we need specifics and links.


Thank you for your detailed response. Here are two things you can do today:

1. Be significantly less tolerant towards transphobic comments on this site, such as this one: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23937722

2. Send very clear and very loud signals that transphobia is not welcome here, such as by making a clear, pinned front page post about it. There are going to be a number of people who are going to complain about this policy and talk about "free speech" and "marketplace of ideas" &c, and to them make it very clear that either they get with the program or are no longer welcome here.


crickets

Mekantis 76 days ago [flagged]

Sorry, but "good people" who are involved with all the evil things Facebook does by working for them aren't good people. I know it's hip to absolve yourself of responsibility by saying "I just work here" or "I didn't work on that", but all these rationalizations don't fly as long as you're one of the quiet majority that does nothing to fight what Facebook does.

Seriously, techies seem to act on the same amoral plane as business executives and I wonder how you people manage to sleep at night.


Please don't morally posture over other people on this forum, first because it's bad for conversation, and second because we're all guilty, even those who don't work for Facebook.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


There's 2 things here to keep in mind to go down your train of logic:

1) The company is actually doing evil things

2) The employee is aware of the purported evil things the company is doing, and agrees with that claim

Now we can debate all we want how evil Facebook is or not, but how many employees do you think check off box 2?


I find it difficult to believe that the average Facebook employee is exposed to less media coverage about their own company than a member of the general public is. So the remaining possibilities are that the employee either agrees with the policy (in which case, we can question their judgment), or they're just trying to keep food on the table (in which case, we should wonder about how healthy the job market is).


There are more options than you've presented. There is also that the employee has perfectly valid and logical reasons for believing the policy isn't evil. In other words, the issue is you see the policies as evil with no possibility to see otherwise.

I use facebook to connect with my family and friends. I've unfollowed all overly political friends. I get no real or fake news in my facebook feed. If I worked at facebook I'd be proud of helping people to stay connected.


To add to this, Facebook is seen as an existential threat to traditional media so most reporting on it will pass through an editorial lens.

Here on HN we are happy to call out the NYT and Bloomberg when they are wrong, but is that only when their articles don't align with our prior biases?


There’s no question that there are good things about Facebook, but I think a fully contemplative person would need to balance those things against the harms Facebook allows to exist on their platform. It’s not a black and white question of good vs evil, as much as it is “does what this company does (or not do), on balance, comport with my values of right or wrong?” Evidence of wrong-doing and questionable judgment by the company’s leaders is abundant. And at some point you can’t continue to work for a company without being complicit in its sins; after all, a company hires someone because they need them to help execute the company’s decisions.


What if you replaced “Facebook” with “the US federal government”?

Can you continue to work for the digital service without being complicit in the government’s sins? There is plenty of evidence of wrong-doing and questionable judgement by the government’s leaders, for sure.

Say everyone who did take issue with Facebook’s policies decided to leave – who would be left?


The Government is subject to a Constitution that has an amendment process, and laws are made by elected leadership who can be voted out by the people.

Facebook is not a democracy, and given the corporate structure and differing voting rights of shareholders, it is practically impossible to replace the current leadership even if a majority of shareholders wanted to.

Moreover, the Government is immense and highly diverse in its missions compared to Facebook. I don't think anyone reasonably believes the sins of the CIA should be borne by, say, U.S. Forest Service park rangers. If Facebook had a public service mission that, among other things, provided essential services to the public like food and housing, perhaps the discussion would be different.

> Say everyone who did take issue with Facebook’s policies decided to leave – who would be left?

Some might say that this is the desired outcome, but eventually management might see the writing on the wall and change the way they do business. Indeed, this is one of the key mechanisms of unionized labor - to bring management to the table for negotiation through the threat of work stoppage (striking).


I think the government is indeed massive with a diverse set of goals, but I think employees at Facebook may see their workplace the same way:

- They could work on something “good”, like trust and safety, community moderation tools, emergency response, etc.

- They could work on something user-driven or “neutral”, like Events or Groups which are used to organize anything from BLM protests to Trump rallies.

If they’re not actively designing privacy anti-patterns or trying to make the news feed more addictive, quitting would not really affect those problem areas.

I think organizing at the workplace is a great idea, and the threat of work stoppage could be a very real one if enough employees organize. But the idea of telling people to quit their jobs and distance themselves from the problem is very different from telling them to start organizing to fix the problem.


As others have said, there are other possibilities. Some good, some neutral, perhaps some bad (but in ways unrelated to how Facebook itself is considered bad).

A great many are there to build their skills and/or resumes, which is a lot more than just putting food on the table. There aren't many places where one can learn so much so quickly about certain technologies (like VR/AR) or how to run things at that kind of scale, and most of those (e.g. Google, Amazon) have their own ethical issues. Many other companies, including some HN darlings, were founded by ex-FB employees. Some of them are doing good things, for practically any definition of "good" you might apply.

Others are there because they believe in the good Facebook does as well as the bad. As you said, they're likely exposed to more information about what the company does, which means a lower percentage is of the "jealous columnist at NYT" variety. Facebook helps connect people and businesses in positive ways as well as negative. You might think the ratio is not high enough, but others can quite reasonably disagree and/or think it's worth their time to work on improving that ratio.

There are many other possible reasons as well. "Evil or trapped" is not a useful simplification.


Which policies of Facebooks are 'evil', exactly?


A good way to look at this is to consider someone working for RJ Reynolds in the 70s. The pay is good, you are working on a product that people just seem to _love_, and everyone at the company seems pretty enthusiastic and committed. There is a little thrill to tell people where you work and have them tell you that they use your company's product.

Yes, some people may have concerns about the product and its long-term consequences to individual health and society, but those are just alarmist freaks and we can ignore them.

Yes, there are also those internal reports that you might have seen or heard about in chatter around the water cooler, but you are not an expert in that subject so really what do you know? And the experts the execs bring around on office tours seem to be OK with things.

Yes, everyone at the company uses the product and while you were not a heavy user of the product before joining you can't avoid it in meetings and daily work. You seem to be recognizing some of the negative symptoms of the product in your daily life a lot more these past few months, but that recent project you worked on was pretty cool and in your last evaluation you got high marks for 'impact' so it can't all be bad, right?

Everyone who works at FB (ok, let's say IC2 and above) knows what is going on. Everyone who has been there for more than two or three years feels the relentless pressure to increase 'engagement' no matter the cost. Most are a bit unsure about the whole 'vision' thing Mark keeps talking about and they have enough self-awareness to see the cult-like aspects of the company, but the pay is very good and it can be a thrill at times to have access to either the audience or systems of such size and scope (e.g. let's count the files in /tmp across 1 million+ systems just because hypershell lets us...)

At what point in your career at RJ Reynolds do you realize that you are actually doing evil and check off box 2? At what point do you admit to yourself that what you do day to day has negative long-term consequences for society? When you do realize this what do you do?

(Disclaimer: worked at FB a while ago for a long enough period of time that the actions of sociopathic management eventually overwhelmed the 'protecting these systems protects activists and persecuted people from their evil governments' story I told myself and so I bailed.)


At the end of the day, you need enough people to care. But plenty are happy with finishing the work, or absolving all the messiness of real world and focus on the engineering work, which is simply more pleasant (and fits to their liking). Work is hard enough, why adding extra stress unless the company is doing something obviously illegal?


So you think that this person was the absolutely last good person at Facebook, and that every one of the other 48,000+ are evil? Do you also believe that every single US government employee, including Dr. Fauci and the inspectors general who regularly report on wrongdoing, must be evil because they're involved with what the Trump administration does? And what on Earth makes you think the majority at Facebook is quiet about any topic least of all this one? Interesting notions, to say the least.

It seems to me that there are three stories here. One is that some small group of employees were violating policy by preventing certain users from being flagged or banned when they should have been. One is that an employee caught them. The third is that the employee was fired - apparently for conduct around the disclosure rather than the disclosure itself, but that's beside the point. The point is that it's absurd to assume that the first and third stories are totally representative of how every single person remaining at Facebook is, while the one that connects them is assumed to be an anomaly that could never possibly happen again.


What evil things?


[flagged]


All Features are Biased?


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.C.A.B.

All Cops Are Bastards: the idea that it isn’t possible, by definition, for there to be such a thing as a good cop.

Presumably F for Facebookers.


Yep, listening to one employee out of thousands who claims something outrageous is just like listening to that one "scientist" who claims climate change is a hoax or the one "doctor" who claims vaccines are dangerous. If there was truly a hoax, I'd expect a good proportion of the workers there to be outraged about it.


yeah except liberal employees are constantly walking out or protesting or screaming/whining instead of working and never reprimanded at google or fb.


This is a rough situation. The guy was pulling on an important thread to unravel a complex issue and get us all transparency. And then he wrote a company wide memo that called Mark a "robber baron, slaver, and plunderer", directly blamed Mark for covid deaths due to his implied support of Trump, and levied a bunch of other personal attacks.

I can't imagine any person at any company who wouldn't get fired after publicly speaking to the CEO that way.

It's a shame, because if this guy had an emotional intelligence he could have personally driven change. Now he's a martyr at best.


It’s weird coming into this thread after just finishing Schindler’s List. It’s like the polar opposite of how to effectively operate in an evil system.

For anyone who believes they’re participating in an evil system: quit, whistleblow, or sabotage. Don’t be like this guy.


He literally did all 3? He whistleblew, sabatoged by doing this in a way that it got to the media and by insulting Zuck, and he got himself fired.


Whistleblowing would be working with the media or regulators to get out as much information as possible. Sabotaging is staying at the company and thwarting their efforts. What he did (calling attention internally to messages that were already available for employees to see) barely counts as either of those. Sure, you could say he effectively quit.


Your attempts to draw parallels between the nazis and facebook by invoking schindlers list hasn’t gone unnoticed. FB has its flaws, but isnt half as bad as what you are trying to paint it to be. Not everyone who disagrees with your point of view is a nazi.


Jeez, my point isn’t that Facebook is equivalent to Nazism. It’s that Oskar Schindler and this guy both thought they were part of a bad organization, and one was way more effective at handling it than the other. Are you familiar with his story?


Maybe this was him "quitting" and he knew this would happen but e.g. he still wanted to be eligible for unemployment benefits


This, exactly. There are effective and non-effective ways to do a thing. Sometimes the non-effective ways are actively harmful to others trying to do the same thing. That's all true whether "the thing" is good, bad, or neutral. Whatever good this person might have done, they also inflicted some damage on their own cause by letting their emotions run away with them.


You see this everywhere in engineering (and maybe other industries notorious for having smart but low-EQ people). Someone has what could potentially be a good point, but they blow it with their tone-deaf or unintentionally insulting delivery. It can be any message, political charged or not. Think of that guy we all know who is really smart but just can't seem to do a code review without making it personal.


> It's a shame, because if this guy had an emotional intelligence he could have personally driven change. Now he's a martyr at best.

That's a bit offensive to all the others who are driving positive changes without acting crazy. We only see the bad apples.


How so? The point is that his behavior is not the best way to drive change.

If other people are behaving in a way that better drives change, how would the above offend them?


I can't believe there's an actually a debate at all about what's going on here.

There are multiple sources indicating that conservative sites work in concert to amplify, at best, specious content and at worst, complete misinformation.

Facebook selectively enforces discipline on these sites because:

1. Conservative information (Fox News, Charlie Kirk, Breitbart, etc.) is consistently shared more than other content

2. They don't want the optics of making it seem like they're censoring conservative voices because they're afraid of the blowback, so they're hiding behind the veil of "It's not our job"

3. They don't want to lose the ad spend running up to the election season nor do they want to lose the vanity metrics of DAU/MAU/etc because they're a publicly traded company

Zuck is a feckless coward, full stop. And while I don't know his personal political leanings, this non-policy certainly has the earmarks of Thiel and Joel Kaplan all over it.


I have a completely unfounded theory that the coalition constituting the current "right wing" are a cherry picked selection of the most easiest to advertise to people in society.

Furthermore the actual goal of a "right wing media" is to collect reliable, large, consistent easy to sell to audiences for advertisers and isn't necessarily committed to any particular agenda.

Also political opinions and grandstanding is cheap content, expensive journalism isn't required, so it keeps the costs low.

All the other consequences, just like they are for tobacco and oil companies, are swept under the rug. This is the content associated with the lowest cost, best audience, highest profit business model.

I sold bumper stickers in the early 2000s, all kinds of politics. The conservatives were easier; larger volume, longer time window (they sold over a longer time), the ramp up time was shorter, and the stickers were way easier to come up with. Much easier business.

Again, this is all from in my head, I'm not a researcher and don't have a paper trail here, but it's a fun idea and seems to match reality.


Those aren't even all separate points. At the end of the day, Facebook is beholden to republican (not really "right wing" per se) advertising dollars more than it is to spending on opposing points.

This is just for demographic reasons: Facebook has to compete hard for eyeballs among young/urban/techie/minority users. Those folks are fickle with their tastes and willing to try more platforms. And they're less sensitive to advertising in general. Facebook has lots of them, but they certainly aren't dominant in that market.

But old white folk? They're all on Facebook. Really, they're ALL on Facebook. Facebook probably has 90%+ of all social media advertising revenue in this demographic. And they skew heavily republican.

So who's interests are they going to serve? When Facebook's executives feel pressure to put their fingers on the fact check scale, in which direction are they going to tilt it?


Facebook make an irrelevant amount of money from political advertising.

If they didn't really believe that it was important to allow on their platform, then they would have banned it years ago, as it causes them nothing but bad press and blowback.


I'd want to see numbers about that before I believe it; I don't think it's true. Certainly from looking over the shoulders of my older relatives, political and issue ads make up a very large percentage of the paid content they see.


Yeah, for less than 25% of each four year period, and only in swing states (so I suspect probably Florida and Ohio get most of it).

Seriously, I definitely saw some numbers (maybe from the FT) and it was like less than 1% political advertising revenue. That's maybe 10-15 times smaller than gaming, and maybe 30 times smaller than ecommerce.


Also, note that pages have posts that look incredibly like ads (the Sponsored thing is pretty subtle), so it can be hard to actually measure which (of any) of the posts are ads.


> is consistently shared more than other content

That is a surprise. Is there data that this has also been the case before the increased efforts to moderate content?

All criticism aside, I think Facebook does a better job at providing a platform for users. Yes, I don't like a lot of content either, but if I compare it to Twitter, I think FB did much better.


The reason (basically) is because Republicans in the states trend older and by extension, less technically savvy. Since content that both incites strong emotion and allows that person to represent themselves a certain way tends to be the most shared, highly clickbait/inflammatory/misinformation right-wing content rules the roost.


1) Why is this? Is it because both sides share it vs just typical echo chamber sharing? I know it's not "shared more because more people believe it" as the US is pretty close to 50/50.


I don't have data to answer how much of what causes this, but certainly there seem to be some very savvy ad strategy decisions on the Republican side such as this: https://twitter.com/kevinroose/status/1290739595278028800

TLDR is that if you know certain subjects will get your base talking about something else that you aren't allowed to promote (such as a conspiracy theory), you promote the hell out of real news stories about those subjects knowing your base will a) share and b) discuss the conspiracy theories in the comments.

It's a very clever way to use money to boost the conversation around untrue claims, while technically neither the ad buyer nor seller are responsible since it's the users doing the lying. And I don't know what the solution is, fact checking every user comment isn't feasible..


(speculation) Because right now, one side loves Trump/Shapiro/Crowder/etc... and the other side just hates Trump (majority don't care either way, of course). Notice how nobody is focused on the Dem side anymore? So of course these pages get more engagement if everyone is over there.


Ha. And here I actually respect Zuck for not banning all the conservatives like Jack did. They just tried to cancel Facebook, so, why the hell would Zuck give into demands now?


> I actually respect Zuck for not banning all the conservatives like Jack did.

Woah, twitter banned all of the conservatives? How did Trump take being banned?


You can't see that Twitter slants far left?


"slants far left" and "banned all conservatives" are incredibly different claims. If you mean "slants far left", but say "banned all conservatives", nobody is going to take anything you say you seriously.


So what you are saying is that facebook itself acts like a neutral platform without boosting, demoting, or censoring certain political posts, right? If so I do not see what the issue is with that.

> Facebook selectively enforces discipline on these sites because:

Does facebook enforce discipline on sites from the other site that spread misinformation? (e.g. snopes) If not I do not think that it is really selective.

Considering https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24079172 for example it does not seem that they have a right wing bias.


The issue of 'amplifying narratives' is not at all exclusive to any 'side' and the misinformation is everywhere, it just takes on different forms.

I believe that the issue of the 'right wing side' in this case is possibly as you've indicated - in that there is just more sensitivity around it.

The Valley is Left/Anarcho/Libertarian with 'traditionally minded' immigrants, and so there's more suspicion in certain camps of legit bias on 'one side'. I think this is where the sidedness of the issue might derive.

As to the materiality of it ... who knows ...


Taking this together with the recent house hearings and with other material, like AOC's questioning of Zuckerberg, it seems like leftist people (a) are distrustful of the tech giants' business and wealth and don't really believe it's been beneficial; and yet (b) trust them to regulate speech and want them to do so more aggressively. It's not logical.


Seems like your (b) is mistaken, they want them to regulate speech (the "aggressively part let's leave aside) and do so within clear parameters. It seems fairly clear that they are not trusted to regulate the speech but rather expected to and are to be closely monitored for how they do so.. the hearings themselves are evidence of that.


But if you don't trust them, then how do hearings help? Hearings only ask questions and but don't create any change?


Often politics aren't about the person being spoken with but the people watching the conversation.


> and do so within clear parameters.

I'd disagree with this part pretty strongly. What clear parameters are you thinking of, besides "get rid of my enemies"? Can you formulate a "no endorsing violence" policy that keeps the current protests/riots while banning Trump's latest idiocy, or one for "no racial discrimination" that keeps White Fragility and bans "they're not sending their best... Murderers, rapists" or similar? That kicks off Infowars or Richard Spencer while leaving Malcolm X or Ta-Nehisi Coates? Sure, the political right tends to cross those lines further - but it's often a case of degree and direction, not kind.

I think it's either a really hard line to draw in a viewpoint-neutral fashion, or a huge political fight. (Whether you choose to ban Trump without the Left, or you try to ban both, people will be furious)


>Can you formulate a "no endorsing violence" policy that keeps the current protests/riots while banning Trump's latest idiocy

Yes, it’s quite simple and I’m wondering if you are intentionally or accidentally being obtuse by trying to frame the current protests as riots. There were plenty of peaceful protests all over the country - no endorsing violence simply means not highlighting peaceful protests over violent ones. It’s not rocket science except to those grasp at straws in order to equate civilians walking in the streets to Trump implying police shoot civilians.


Shouldn't people be allowed to be aware of violence going on in their home country?


It's logical if you look at it this way: We want you to regulate the speech the way we tell you to (b), and if you don't, we'll use your shady business practices against you and take away your wealth (a). It's a basic play the government loves to play - stick and carrot, if you behave, you get beneficial regulations, if you don't, we'll regulate you into the ground.


How else would elected officials play against those who could essentially fund your opponent with collective billions of dollars?

"Government" is made up of many actors and groups, and the fundraising dynamic is that a) corporation gives to incumbent to get favors or b) gives to opponent to remove regulatory pressure from an incumbent not willing to play ball.

What you are seeing is the natural result of corporate control over elections and consequently, politicians.


The way I see it, because the government cannot censor speech AOC wants companies like Facebook to do it. Very dishonest. I would expect calls from people against any censorship, not for it.


I know I'm splitting hairs, but the us government effectively censors obscenity, defamation, whistleblowers, inciting violence, copyrighted material etc.


Really, is this something AOC has said, or is it something you read on a meme with a picture of her face?



I don't see how that article is relevant at all. What does AOC blocking people on Twitter have to do with the alleged claim that AOC wants Facebook to censor speech?

Show me something AOC has _said_, not a meme of a dubious quote with her face on it.


The relevance is a datapoint which indicates AOC does not care about freedom of speech in certain fundamental situations.


Blocking people on twitter is a "fundamental" situation? I'd love to hear what you call Trump sending in the military to clear protesters.

And again, I'd also like you to explain the logical leap between "AOC blocked some people on Twitter" to "AOC wants the power to tell Facebook who to censor".


Remember when it was ruled the POTUS blocking people was unconstitutional?

https://www.ncsl.org/blog/2019/07/23/potus-cant-block-critic...

I'm not prepared to argue this applies to her in the same way, but maybe the person who you're responding to thinks it is parallel, so perhaps more dialogue than just scoffing would be appropriate.


I feel like I'm being trolled here. The poster's claim was

>because the government cannot censor speech AOC wants companies like Facebook to do it.

Ok, AOC shouldn't be allowed to block people on Twitter. What does that have to do with the original claim?


The context of my comment was not reading the qz.com link. So now it seems redundant.

But now that I have read it, I'm confused even more about the responses.

Blocking people on Twitter is arguably (because the courts are saying so) a violation of the constitution. For an elected official at least.

If someone wants to regulate speech, and they have tried and been prevented from doing so on first amendment grounds, it seems likely motivation to search for a legal alternative method to achieve their goals.

Is AOC against Facebook regulating content then?

I don't think I see the motivation/goal attributed to her as illegitimate. Maybe everyone is taking for granted that it's a "loophole".


A story of AOC blocking someone on Twitter is all you have.

Well, OK lol


>(a) are distrustful of the tech giants' business and wealth and don't really believe it's been beneficial

This is a stance I wish non lefties picked up on tbh. Even if you're rather right wing or liberal it should be obvious that larger companies being able to pay less taxes and being able to get more benefits than your local business or startup is unfair. Or that anticompetitive practices that squash smaller competitors, give unfair advantage and/or establish monopsonies is terrible for entrepreneurship, social mobility and the free market in general.

yet it's self-proclaimed 'capitalist to the bone' that I see defending it's erosion of it's dynamics and benefits.


“Facebook employees want CEO Mark Zuckerberg to explain what the company would do if the leader of the free world uses the social network to undermine the results of the 2020 US presidential election”

this is so silly, and later when the article claims “misinformation”, it’s a tricky situation to claim you know the 100% truth about everything and anything that goes against what you believe is considered misinformation that will undermine an election... totally ignoring the possibility that you might actually not be correct and that things aren’t as black and white as you think they are


> this is so silly

Why is it "silly" exactly? Are you saying that Facebook wouldn't allow itself to be used this way, that the government wouldn't try, or that it's not possible? Are you contending that the results of an election are not "black and white"?


Clearly the results of an election are not always black-and-white, otherwise there wouldn't be contested elections.

"Undermine" is obviously a subjective judgement, not an objective one. Which in turn makes it difficult to legislate "prevent people from using social networks to undermine elections" in an objective way.

And this is now my personal opinion, but legislation that cannot be enforced with some amount of objectivity is a recipe for disaster down the road.


it’s silly to assume that you are so sure of what you believe that you can call something that doesn’t align with your beliefs to be “misinformation” or an attempt to “undermine election results” when things are not black and white, both sides of a polarizing topic have truth to them, that’s why it’s always those topics that get this type of treatment, nobody is going around saying the sky is purple or the sun is a cube


As an example of bias, I've recently seen on Facebook a post that instructed the readers to shoot law enforcement people in the face. Not exaggerating, those are the exact words, "shoot him in the face". Facebook told me this is well within the "community standards". Yet for example Zuckerberg personally promised to ban any page that promotes protests against COVID lockdown. So, calling for protesting lockdown - ban, calling for murdering the police - OK. Sounds like a bias.


Of course this happens because if Facebook actually nukes pages like Breitbart, right-wingers will claim this is evidence of Facebook's leftist bias. I see this claim on my feed all the time already.

There is nothing Facebook can do that won't cause a riot. But if there's truly no acceptable action for Facebook and similar platforms, maybe the only option in the long-run is for them to cease to exist.


Not really true. Content policy can take a lot of different forms. There’s a purely compliant approach — only respecting the legal requirements, like illegal content — and then there’s an approach of being Big Brother, taking a censorship role. Facebook seems to want to be at least a little bit of a censor.


I believe there are no examples of platforms with any significant reach that can possibly take a purely compliance approach. Speech permissible by law in many jurisdictions is well beyond what is tolerable in public forums - or tolerable in your office meeting room.


There is no such thing as "tolerable" - there is only what one can tolerate. To phrase it that way asks the question who claims they're incapable of tolerating what.

"Intolerable speech" makes it sound like it's the speech's fault.


"Fire in a crowded theater" is intolerable speech, and so is publicly calling for executions. It's enshrined in jurisprudence.

US only, other nations probably have larger lists of free speech exclusions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_free_speech_exce...


>"Fire in a crowded theater" is intolerable speech, and so is publicly calling for executions. It's enshrined in jurisprudence.

Directly threathening to execute someone maybe. But "Fire in a crowded theater" has not been part of jurisprudence for... 40 years. The US has very, very limited free speech restrictions.

https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/11/its-tim...


Speech is protected by law in many cases and that makes it tolerable; it can be inappropriate in some cases, but that is not a reason to censor it.

The recent discussions about applying the first amendment to companies like Facebook have some logic behind.


If someone walked into their place of work and spent the whole day shouting obscenities and racial slurs I think their speech would be deemed intolerable.


Tolerable in public forums according to whom? You? Why should your level speech tolerance get enshrined in FB content policy? The process of lawmaking is how we come to an agreement on the bounds of acceptability. Don't like those bounds? Change the law. Don't use social network insiders to do it for you.


This article is about Facebook trying not to be a censor, and consequently getting slammed for not acting strongly enough against "Fake News". Changing to lower or higher levels of censorship will just result in different amounts of yelling from one side or the other. The middle of the road is a no-mans-land where you get shelled by both sides of the political spectrum.


The “middle of the road” is actually impossible — there’s no Goldilocks level of censorship. Once your policy becomes less permissive than the legal minimum you are inciting a whole world of criticism.


I mean, that's basically another way of stating the same point I'm making, except that I think "legal minimum" is also non-viable for similar reasons (unless you're 4chan apparently). I can't see any safe ground, any way that for-profit social media can scale sustainably.


Social media neutrality isn't a 'both political sides bad' problem but rather an issue that ties into differences in strategies between conservative and non-conservative political blocs.

Conservatives, not just in the United States but globally, pour vast resources into using social media platforms to propagate ideas that are objectively false and to embed those ideas into the minds of vulnerable people. There is no equivalent effort by non-conservatives in any English-speaking country. Non-conservatives see ample ammunition in the actual behavior of their opponents and see no need to use falsehoods to help their cause. Compare: Trump claiming that Biden will destroy the suburbs by letting non-whites liven in them vs anti-Trump forces using actual pictures of actual children in actual cages. Also compare: the lies used to manufacture support for Brexit vs. the actual truths about what would happen.

Rampant dishonesty is seen by many, particularly non-conservatives, as social cheating and social media platforms that enable it are condemned by non-conservatives for pro-conservative bias.

On the other hand, social media networks that do not tolerate political lies will, purely because most political lying is done by conservatives, more heavily restrict pro-conservative ideas and be condemned by conservatives for anti-conservative bias.

There's no way to square the circle of responding to habitual conservative dishonesty without favoring either conservatives or non-conservatives any more than there's a way to be neutral in the face of a wildfire: you either put it out or you don't.


Agreed! Well said

If you moderate by common decency values, massive chunks of conservative voices would be off Reddit, FB, Twitter - and then they will evolve to dodge the new filters, or cause filters to create collateral damage.

Deplatforming these voices also plays into their strategy of calling themselves victims. Since most people don’t know the ins and outs of frequency of rule breaking, and the disproportionate amount of false information in conservative circles, people assume (wrongly) that it can’t be “that bad.”

I wish someone had a cost benefit analysis on what is the most effective way to resolve this, but right now social media firms are forced to treat outright conspiracy theories at the same level as science and research.

Perhaps it’s a civilization level issue - we have the technology and structures to create platforms - servers, networks, computer science theories.

We don’t have a solution or science for handling the structures that come on top of it, like what is the societal cost of keeping crazy theories on a network, vs the cost or methods required to stamp it out, and the philosophical arguments that support or prohibit such action.


It's an civilization-level issue that social media (particularly Facebook) has amplified but did not create.

It is a serious civilizational health issue that conservative political blocs in many countries have adopted electoral strategies based on spreading information that is objectively false. If social media platforms did not enable this, conservatives would simply find different avenues to lie.

Expecting for-profit social media platforms to combat the rise of rampant dishonesty as a political strategy in nominally democratic countries isn't ideal, but it's the only tool we have to mitigate the damage.


I think that the 3 posts above are quite biased. I do not doubt that the conservatives are doing a lot of lying but this is true for the other side of the camp as well. Take Snopes for example, or people systematically mis-quoting certain historical figures (such as churchill) or even modern figures (such as stallman or damore), or the propaganda against wikileaks and snowden, or the anti-science sentiment that goes regarding research results that they do not like, etc.

> If you moderate by common decency values, massive chunks of conservative voices would be off Reddit, FB, Twitter

So would the far left. People do not particularly enjoy being baselessly accused, cancelled, and have people call for violence on them.

(not to mention that in the past certain things which we consider as decent such as homosexuality would be considered indecent)

> but right now social media firms are forced to treat outright conspiracy theories at the same level as science and research.

They really are not. More like they are being pushed to censor posts based on what a 3rd party deems are wrongthink or incorrect.


Dangerous fact-free argumentation from non-conservatives is generally pushed by fringe voices with limited connections to established figures and major funding sources. DNC and Dem PAC money isn't used to push left-antivax views, for example.

In contrast, fact-free argumentation from conservatives has the backing of both established figures and big money. To keep this as non-controversial as possible, consider Trump's continued promotion of an anti-malaria drug as a COVID-19 treatment. This misinformation is both false and has the potential to kill people. Consider also the GOP's long-running strategy to de-legitimize elections by overstating the extent of voter fraud, which has now resurfaced as opposition to mail-in ballots. This misinformation is both false and deeply dangerous in a democracy.

There is no left-right equivalency here and america's long-running slow motion political crisis isn't going to get any better until people are willing to admit this.


I specifically did not claim that it's a "both sides bad" issue, just that both sides will be outraged no matter what Facebook does. Beyond that we appear to be looking in the same direction, even if I don't fully agree.


I would argue that it is censoring. By being more lenient to right wing sources compared to other sources who carry out the same infraction you create a bias and are censoring in favour of those right wing sources.


Facebook is perfectly happy to censor legal content; try posting a picture of a topless woman, or even of a woman breast-feeding without a covering. Try posting a short video of consenting adults having sex.

I think it's very illuminating that so many people accept these speech restrictions without question or fuss (although breast-feeding advocacy groups have fought the good fight on their pictures), but, as soon as FB blocks an article falsely claiming that Joe Biden will dynamite churches if he becomes president or whatever, it's suddenly Very Important That Facebook Not Practice Censorship.

Can we all imagine for a minute how conservatives would react if Facebook took a 100% compliance approach to speech and allowed anyone to post porn into their newsfeed?


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