Fortune’s Mathew Ingram says Facebook “routinely censors content” provided by its users:
Photojournalist Jim MacMillan happened to be walking through downtown Philadelphia shortly after a woman was run over by a Duck Boat (an amphibious vehicle that takes tourists around the harbor). Reverting to his journalistic training, he took a picture of the scene and posted it to his accounts on Instagram and Facebook, along with the caption “Police hang a tarp after a person was caught under #RideTheDucks boat at 11th and Arch just now. Looks very serious.”
MacMillan said in a post about the incident that he chose not to post a picture that showed the woman’s body underneath the vehicle and he also didn’t mention her name, or the fact that she was most likely dead.
“We do things like this to eliminate the possibility that loved ones will learn of the death from anyone but official sources and to spare viewers the traumatic effects of graphic imagery whenever possible,” he wrote. “In other words, I was operating conservatively within standard practices of photojournalism. That was my best effort to be sensitive to the victim while responsible to the public’s right to know.”
When MacMillan went back to look at his earlier post, however, he found that it had been removed from both Instagram and Facebook, without any notice or alert. As he put it in his subsequent update: “Shouldn’t I have been offered the opportunity to respond? Clearly, I have made the mistake of placing any measure of trust in a corporate platform with little concern for truth or history. But now every post means less to me, knowing firsthand that only those which please Facebook will survive.”
Melody Kramer, a former digital strategist at National Public Radio, said on Twitter that “things like this should worry everyone who cares about news.”
Here lies the problem moving into 2016:
As a corporate entity, Facebook has every right to delete or censor whatever it wants, of course, since the First Amendment only applies to the actions of the government in restraining speech. And it’s not surprising that a social network would want to maintain certain standards so that its users wouldn’t get offended by certain images or commentary. But what happens when that network want to become a platform for journalism?
“JournOlism,” of course.
There’s a very good chance that people you know, people you love, now get most of their news from Facebook and Google. We also know that Google execs are in tonsil-deep with Hillary Clinton, and that Facebook has been “experimenting” with its users emotions.
You need to talk to your people about this.