Facebook Is a Conservative News Organization: The PreP Edition

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Facebook should be thought of as a conservative publication–the editorial decisions are rightwing, as Jacob Silverman has noted (boldface mine):

If it’s not clear already, then it must be said: Facebook is a right-wing company, hostage to conservative ideas about speech and economics, its fortunes tied to its allies in Republican politics, including the president, whose campaign spends millions on Facebook ads. Offering support to some of the worst figures in American political life, Facebook is as nihilistic as an oil company and just as willing to dump its pollution on all of us. That it has come to so thoroughly dominate our public sphere is a tragic indictment of American civic life and American techno-capitalism, which has confused the pitiless surveillance of today’s internet with utopian empowerment…

What Zuckerberg ignores is that his form of rigorous nonpartisanship, his refusal to take any stand at all, is itself a political act, especially when Donald Trump is president. A specific type of right-wing populist movement is currently in power, with a specific, iniquitous ideology, and it got there in part by leveraging the Facebook platform, yet Zuckerberg refuses to give it a name. Nor will he even consent to fact-checking or blocking the deliberately misleading ads that Trump’s campaign and its allies regularly run on Facebook. This passivity is not a form of even-handedness or a devotion to free expression. He has taken a side, and it happens to be occupied by some of the most malign forces in American political life.

This nihilistic passivity isn’t limited to what is considered to be traditional politics either. Consider these banned ads (boldface mine):

This might sound like paid political content has free reign on his platforms, which include Facebook subsidiary Instagram, but Zuckerberg apparently does draw the line somewhere: public health campaigns for queer communities of color. Apicha Community Health Center—a primary care center in New York City that offers a variety of medical services to underserved communities like Asians and Pacific Islanders (API), LGBTQ people, and individuals living with and affected by HIV/AIDS—attempted to run an ad campaign on Instagram promoting public awareness about PrEP, a drug that significantly reduces the risk of HIV transmission, among API men who have sex with men, only to have it rejected on the grounds that the center “hadn’t been authorized to run ads about social issues, elections or politics.”

“They said the copy was the problem but were unable to tell us what part of the copy was too political,” said Phillip Miner, Apicha’s Director of Grants and Communications, in a phone interview with VICE on Friday morning. “It’s incredibly frustrating to encounter these sort of road blocks.”

…Apicha CHC submits a campaign, and it gets rejected for being “too sexual.” (“It’s very hard to talk about sex without talking about sex,” Miner noted.) The center then appeals that rejection, and the campaign goes through. It has never had a campaign rejected on the grounds of it being political. Instagram did not clarify what exactly was too political about the PrEP campaign, which features queer API artists talking about their experiences with stigma and discrimination, but did offer a solution: If Apicha CHC could authorize every employee who uses the center’s social media accounts through Facebook, they would be able to run the ad. This would not be possible, Miner told VICE, as one of his staffers, who wished to remain anonymous, uses a name on Facebook that does not match their government ID for undisclosed matters of personal privacy and security.

It’s hard to see how rightwing theocrat Mike Pence wouldn’t endorse a similar policy for equally specious reasons. So overt political lies are good, but public health campaigns that could save lives are bad. It’s like they want to be nationalized. Of course, if Democrats take back power, Zuckerberg might decide to tack leftward…

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