The Democratic Alliance (DA), an opposition party in South Africa, is calling Facebook (yes, the Facebook) to Parliament to answer for its sins.
A global social media witch hunt is underway, with legislators in the US and the EU pressuring social media platforms to take responsibility for the content shared on their various platforms. In the midst of this, Facebook’s been aggressively targeted as the head witch, for allowing misinformation and, more importantly, harvesting user information on a massive scale.
DAmn, it’s getting political
“The reason for summoning Facebook – which has an office in Johannesburg – is with the view of ascertaining what steps the tech giant will be taking in tackling harmful misinformation,” reads a statement published on the DA’s blog. Facebook has recently bolstered efforts in the US to curb the spread of misinformation — but it’s arguably even more pressing in countries that aren’t… global powerhouses.
I have today called for Facebook to be summoned to Parly to answer questions regarding what steps it is will be taking to curb misinformation & the weaponization of private data in SA, particularly ahead of #LGE2021. My press statement today https://t.co/NuKmUR2p7f
— Phumzile Van Damme (@zilevandamme) February 15, 2021
It’s an interesting development, but we will have to wait and see how it plays out, and whether Facebook responds to calls from a political party that isn’t the main decision maker in this country. Even more, there’s no obvious outcome in this fight that will please all parties.
“In the South African context and in line with our Constitution, stronger content moderation would mean removing content that incites violence; and advocates for hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion,” the statement details. This leads to a larger conversation about freedom of expression, as defined by the Constitution, and what the DA’s call for moderation would do to it.
Of course, the blame can’t simply be placed on ‘Facebook’ as an entity, with expectations that all bad and evil content placed on the social platform is its responsibility now. The antitrust probe in the US does touch on these points, but the main criticism there is Facebook’s business practices in the country where it’s based.
It’s by no means ‘admirable’ to see a political party call for increased moderation and censorship on a public social media platform. That’s just… how politics works.